Would you like to study a major in biology but don’t know what you are up against? Many people say ”Biology is easy” others say ”Biochemistry is terrifying”, but what is the truth?
In this guide we are going to answer the question ‘’Is biology a hard major?’’ We will take a trip through the major in biology, decipher its difficulty and the requirements you need to start it.
Is biology a hard major?
Yes, biology is a hard major. It is strong because it involves many specific concepts with scientific terms, in addition, you must have a good background in chemistry to be able to do it successfully.
If you are reading this, it is probably because you have thought about studying biology but the vast majority of your environment does not stop warning you that you are going down a hard, complicated and ungrateful path.
And they are right but, you’re going to be the one who spends 4 years (being optimistic) trying hard and the minimum is that you are at least putting information that interests you in the brain.
There’s nothing worse than studying a career that you don’t like, no matter how many opportunities it may have, and from the point of view of a father it’s very easy to order the future of a son when he is not the one who has to work it out. So you do what you want.
On the other hand, welcome to the world of biology. If you really like this, I’ll tell you: nothing you do will be easy, you’re going to study like you have never studied before, you’re going to lose social life and hours of sleep.
But, on the other hand, you’re going to learn a lot of things that are going to be very interesting to you, you are going to enjoy going to class and, as much as they demand of you, you are going to be happy. As long as you like biology.
‘’Biology is an easy major’’
Maybe the most false stereotype there is about Biology majors is that it’s easy. Since you are admitted with a low grade, and not as prestigious as business or engineering, it seems that biology is a secondary career. Well, nothing is further from reality, and this error takes its toll on many who enter thinking that it will not cost them effort, and then they face reality.
Biology is a hard science. And also very wide. Biologists, except for subsequent specializations, don’t go into the detail of knowing all the diseases and their symptoms, their treatment, etc. But they learn the scientific bases of physiology, pathology issues, and much more, about biological diversity, ecology, genetics, cell biology, design of experiments, etc.
It’s a major with as much weight of content as any other; It differs in that the contents are much more diverse, and obviously, each part is treated in less depth than in careers that focus directly on specializing (Like a PhD, for example).
Biology major is general, since it’s not possible to cover all the knowledge with equal detail, and of course you have to go to some branch (If you want to continue in the biological field). But even so, a biologist has an integrative training in many disciplines of knowledge.
What can you expect from a Biology major?
The first year may not be the most exciting, because most of the subjects are general subjects of any science major: mathematics, physics, statistics, chemistry… Yes, my friend; you who fled from mathematics coming to this career, you’re not going to get rid of them yet.
At least for two semesters. However, you can compensate for that suffering with other purely biology subjects whose class time you will treasure as if it were 24-karat gold, such as cell biology and histology, evolutionary biology or laboratory techniques.
Then comes the second year of the degree, where you finally begin to take biology subjects completely and… as a friend of mine said: “When you discover thanks to biochemistry that the prefix bio- does not mean life, but difficult”.
Yes, the rumors about this subject are true; I had friends in biology who had a very bad time. The trick is to start studying as if there were no tomorrow and thus, only then, will you be able to overcome biochemistry and everything bio- that they put you in front of you.
Biology Major: Study Plan
The study plans of each site is already something that depends on the faculty. Teachers play a very important role, determining how interesting and useful each subject is. But it’s something that cannot be evaluated in general, so I will focus on the contents.
First of all, to have a Bachelor Degree major in Biology, you will have to study 4 years (120 credits) approximately. Your GPA must be higher than 2.00, that is, C +.
An understanding of math, chemistry, and physics is required for completing a Biology major. What courses a student takes depends largely on their career interests.
Among the basic subjects that any student must take are:
- Chemistry Lab
According to UCLA Biology Major Core Curriculum, the subjects that you will find in your career will be:
- Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
- Earth & Planetary Sciences
- Life Science
- Microbiology, Immunology, & Molecular Genetics
- Molecular, Cell, & Developmental Biology
- Society & Genetics
- Physiological Sciences
- Earth & Planetary Sciences
- Environmental Health Sciences
My friend from Biology told me that zoology and botany are two of the pillars of biology, although they are mostly “historical” branches. Of course there is important scientific content, but in these subjects is where you have to memorize hundreds of species names, in each course.
And in microbiology something similar, although with certain differences. These are subjects to know the elements of nature. They require time and effort.
At the other extreme is ecology, genetics, physiology, and biochemistry. If the previous ones had a lot to do with knowing the different elements, these focus more on understanding how it works. They also require studying, some more and others less, but it’s not so much to memorize, and there’s more to reason.
Then there are a few supplementary subjects, such as physics, mathematics, statistics, or geology, fundamental to science.
If you want to be a good scientist, you could do a little more training in mathematics, even if it’s on your own or taking extra classes.
In the fundamental branch are genetics, cell biology, microbiology, physiology, biochemistry… also with different subjects such as pathophysiology, molecular pathology, neurobiology, enzymology, human genetics, molecular genetics, metabolism, immunology, virology, etc.
In addition, there are usually quite interesting common subjects, such as projects in biology (where you learn to develop projects with a more business approach), or philosophy of biology (highly recommended for any scientist).
Choosing between so many options can be difficult. If you have a vocation, you may want to do more than what is required. Remember that you have multiple electives, such as:
- Biomedical Engineering
- Cell Biology
- Computational Biology and Bioinformatics
- Computer Science
- Earth and Ocean Sciences
What do I need to study biology?
If you are curious about biology or plan to study it in the future, you may wonder what “requirements” you need, that is, what other knowledge gives you a solid foundation for learning biology.
In my opinion, the only requirements are curiosity, an open mind, and a desire to think critically about the natural world. If you do, you can start learning biology without any other background as long as you’re willing to pick up some chemistry, physics, statistics, and math stuff along the way.
Your biology journey may be easier and more satisfying if you have some familiarity with some topics in other areas, especially chemistry. Here are some fundamental topics that will help you:
General Science Skills
The scientific method. Are you a little dusty about what a hypothesis is and how it is tested? And about the experiments? These basics will help you not only in biology but in any other science!
General chemistry. Get a general idea about atoms, molecules and how they interact with each other. After all, it’s what you (and all life forms) are made of!
Chemistry of acids and bases. Much of the chemistry in your body is acid-base chemistry that takes place in aqueous solutions. Knowing what acids and bases are will take you far in the study of biochemistry.
Thermodynamics. Get an idea of what energy is and what rules govern its transfer. Energy is constantly flowing through ecosystems, organisms, and cells and is essential to keep them going!
Fundamentals of probability. Probability is a key concept in biology. You don’t need to know thousands of formulas or details, but understanding their main concepts will go a long way when studying population genetics and genetics.
Basic algebra and graphs. Most introductory biology classes are not math intensive, but understanding basic algebra and knowing how to interpret graphs will help you understand facts and figures in biology.
Do I have to know all this before I start?
Not necessarily! As I said before, you can also learn as you go; you just have to be willing to work on these topics in parallel with your study of biology. So don’t give up learning biology if you haven’t mastered all of these topics.
So, is biology a hard major?
In short, everything is a question of attitude. And what I want to highlight is that it’s not enough to do a major, it requires a certain vocation, and it requires effort, not only to spend time and energy studying, fundamentally understanding and being interested in discovering. As a science, if you are not curious to know, you have nothing to do in biology major.
And even having a certain interest, this must be accompanied by an effort to obtain good results. Grades matter, even if there are those who say no. I agree that the educational system we have has serious deficiencies, and that the grades don’t reflect everything; but they do reflect something.
There may be people who, getting regular grades, really have more potential than others who get all A’s. But of course in those who pass by luck, that shows that they’re not assimilating the knowledge that they should have.
It’s always possible that some subject is difficult for you, and you pass it badly; if they are few, nothing happens. You have the risk of blank spaces, but you can try to fix it yourself; studying more at another time, receiving private lessons, or if it happens that a subject costs you because of a bad teacher (there always are), you train on your own and nothing happens.
However, we all know that high grades doesn’t mean intelligence.
Simply, those who start biology and see that they are doing very badly, ask themselves if that is really their vocation, and if they wouldn’t do better by looking for a better major.
Advice: the first courses are usually the hardest, and from the middle of the career it becomes somewhat easier.
FAQS: Is biology a hard major?
Why is biology a hard major?
Biology is a difficult major because it involves difficult topics like chemistry, physiology, microbiology, and chemistry.
Is it easier to major in chemistry or biology?
It’s harder to major in chemistry than in biology. Since chemistry has higher math content it can be difficult.
What can you become with a biology major?
The field of biology is extremely broad, you can be a pharmacist, biological technician, biochemist, professor, etc.
Is biology good major?
Biology is a good major. Since you can develop in many areas, with a major in biology, you can be a teacher, a doctor, a researcher.
In this guide answered the question ‘’Is biology a hard major?’’ We took a trip through the major in biology, deciphering its difficulty and the requirements you need to start it.
If you have any questions or comments please let us know!
Comizio, C. (2019). What You Need to Know About Becoming a Biology Major. Retrieved October 6, 2020, from US News & World Report website: https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/biology-major-overview
Haas, C. (1994). Learning to read biology: One student’s rhetorical development in college. Written Communication, 11(1), 43-84.
National Research Council. (2003). BIO2010: Transforming undergraduate education for future research biologists. National Academies Press.