Is biology considered a STEM major?

In this brief guide we are going to answer the question ‘’Is biology considered a STEM major?’’ We will identify the aspects that make biology a science and why it’s considered a STEM Major.

Is biology considered a STEM major?

Yes, biology is considered a STEM Major. Biology is a science, a natural science to be more exact. Which relies on many other disciplines to carry out their studies.

STEM is an acronym formed by the initials of the following words: science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Thus, those known as “STEM careers” are those degrees that belong to these four areas of knowledge: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Within these four domains, there are many college majors that are considered STEM majors:

  • Science: Biology, Chemistry, etc.
  • Technology: IT, Telecommunications, Robotics, etc.
  • Engineering: Electronic, Mechanics, etc.
  • Mathematics: Mathematics, Statistics, Economics, Physics, etc.

According to the ACT Research Report, between 50 and 67% of students who take the ACT test, intend to major in some STEM field. Typical areas related to STEM are:

  • Astronomy
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Computer science
  • Engineering
  • Earth sciences
  •  Health sciences
  • Information technology
  • Mathematics
  • Physics

What ‘s ”Science’’?

“Science” is a concept that you have been handling for several years, several courses. You associate it with some subjects such as Mathematics, Biology, Physics, Chemistry … well, they are science. While Literature or Religion, for example, are not science.

Now, very surely you never asked yourself this question “What is science?”, that is, what characteristics or qualities do Mathematics or Biology have that make them science.

Science is the intellectual and practical activity carried out through the systematic study of the elements of the world. This includes both the level of structural organization and individual behavior, and applies to the physical, natural or social environment.

Science can also be understood as a body of knowledge on a particular topic. In fact, there are different bodies of knowledge that can be considered a specific type of science. The distinction between one and the other can be given by their object of study, or they can be distinguished by the research methods that each one uses.

Types of science

Considering that science can encompass very broad bodies of knowledge, they are usually divided according to the specific knowledge they generate. In this sense, three main types of science are usually recognized: formal sciences, natural sciences and social sciences.

1. Formal science

Formal sciences are a set of logical and abstract systems that can be applied to different objects of study. The formal sciences are made up of a sign system. In turn, these systems originate a series of abstract structures from which organization patterns are generated and different phenomena are explained once the assumptions from which they start have been accepted.

Among the disciplines that are considered formal sciences are logic, mathematics, statistics, and computer systems, among others.

2. Social sciences

The social sciences are the set of disciplines that are responsible for studying human beings in behavioral and social terms.

That is, its object of study can be both the individual and society. These are disciplines that were considered part of science long after the previous ones; approximately in the 19th century after the scientific method was transferred to the individual and the social studies.

Social sciences comprise sociology, economics, psychology, archeology, communication, history, geography, linguistics, political science, among others.

3. Natural sciences

As its name indicates it, the object of study of natural sciences is nature and the phenomena that occur in it. It’s responsible for describing, explaining, understanding and / or predicting them. These phenomena, in turn, can range from biology to the most complex elements of the universe.

In fact, the natural sciences are usually subdivided into two large groups: the physical sciences and the biological sciences. The first ones include disciplines such as chemistry, physics, astronomy, and geology; while the latter include the different forms of life that exist on our planet.

The latter can be humans, animals, plants, and microorganisms. Hence, it includes disciplines such as botany, zoology or veterinary medicine, anatomy, ecology, genetics or neuroscience, among others.

Unlike the formal sciences, both the natural sciences and the social sciences are fundamentally empirical. That is, the knowledge they produce is based on observable phenomena, with which their existence can be verified by other observers.

Is biology a science?

The word biology was introduced to scientific language for the first time by Lamarck in 1801, to refer to the study of living beings as opposed to another class of beings that lack life called inorganic or mineral beings.

From that date the term biology, it had a great reception in the scientific field. If we accept the etymological conception of the word biology, it comes from the Greek words “Bios = life” and “logos = treatise or study”

So, yes, biology is a natural science.

Biology is the science that studies life from multiple perspectives from the most basic at the molecular and biochemical level to the system or ecosystem level. Genetics, ecology, cell biology, physiology are some of the aspects in which biology has specialized as a science.

Biology studies all aspects of the life of living beings: growth, reproduction, diseases, food, internal functioning, relationship with the environment and with other individuals of other species and of the same species … but it also deals with describing and classifying to living beings. In short, biology studies everything that involves life.

Biology is a scientific discipline that encompasses a wide spectrum of fields of study that are often treated as separate disciplines. All of them together, study life on a wide range of scales. Life is studied at the atomic and molecular scale in molecular biology, biochemistry, and molecular genetics.

Biology Branches

Biology is divided into a multitude of disciplines, and as knowledge advances, new ones appear. In addition, some are narrowed with other great sciences that serve to support each other, such as chemistry or geology.

Still, we can talk about 10 main branches that have served as the basis for the massive diversification of the science of life. Let’s start.

1. Cell biology

The cell is the primordial unit of living beings, since all are formed by them. Therefore, it is not surprising that one of the branches of biology focuses on the study of it. Formerly known as cytology, this discipline, as its name suggests, specializes in the knowledge of the structures and functions carried out by cells.

2. Developmental biology

One of the most impressive phenomena in life is how a whole multicellular organism can be generated from the union of two gametes. I’m talking about fertilization using a sperm and an egg (in the case of animals) to form a zygote.

This branch of biology specializes in the study of all cellular processes that take place in the development of a new organism through sexual reproduction.

3. Marine biology

The Earth is also known as the blue planet, and it is that almost 71% of the extension of this is occupied by water. Life in the seas is no small thing, proof of this is the fact that there is a whole branch of biology that focuses on the study of it, from the beings that inhabit it to their interaction with the environment.

4. Molecular biology

If earlier I talked about cell biology that specializes in the study of the structures and functions of cells, molecular biology focuses on the tools that cells use to carry out those functions. This discipline studies proteins and the processes they carry out from them, such as the synthesis of these components or processes related to metabolism.

5. Botany

Botany mainly specializes in the study of plants, such as plants, shrubs and trees, but also of life forms that are not plants and yet share characteristics with them, such as algae, fungi and cyanobacteria.

6. Ecology

The environment is a very important element in life and an increasingly current issue. Ecology is the branch of biology that studies the intimate interactions that are established between living beings and their environment or habitat, forming what are known as ecosystems.

7. Physiology

If cell biology focuses on the functions of cells, physiology is the discipline that specializes in the study of processes that occur in organs, that is, functions that are carried out from a set of cells.

For example, the circulation of internal fluids or breathing mechanisms. There are both animal and plant physiology.

8. Genetics

The cell is the unit of life, but without DNA it would be nothing. The genetic material contains all the information necessary to develop an organism. For this reason, there is a whole discipline that focuses on the study of genetic content, which is none other than genetics. The study of the genome has always been of special interest to biology.

9. Microbiology

If botany mainly covers plants, microbiology focuses on the study of microorganisms, very small single-celled living beings, only visible through a microscope.

Among the beings being investigated are bacteria, archaea, protozoa (eukaryotic unicellular organisms) or the enigmatic viruses.

10. Zoology

The last branch of biology that specializes in the study of living things is zoology, which encompasses the last of the animal kingdoms. From sponges to mammals, a wide range of living things are under its field of study.

Biology as a scientific activity

Biology is characterized as an activity and as a body of knowledge, that is, what scientists do and what scientists know.

When biologists develop their research, they explore, explain and check their ideas taking into account the knowledge that exists up to that moment in their field of study. Biology, like all science, builds knowledge that is provisional and tentative in nature. Furthermore, theories influence the observations scientists make or the data they collect.

Many times inferences are made or evidence is sought when facts cannot be observed directly, as in the case, for example, of the study of organisms that have already become extinct.

That’s why the students of this specialization have an integrative approach, and their time is distributed in classes and in research laboratories.

Biology majors will take basic biology and chemistry classes. As well as math and physics courses. Without a doubt, these classes prepare students for advanced biology classes.

So, yes, biology is a STEM major. Biology is one of the sciences that has the widest field of study since it investigates all living beings that inhabit our planet, from the analysis of microorganisms to ecological systems.

Being a science that encompasses such an extensive object of study, it uses other disciplines such as Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics to carry out its scientific studies.

FAQS: Is biology considered a STEM major?

What is considered a STEM major?

STEM majors are all those fields of study that can be classified as: Science, Technology. Engineering and Mathematics. Such as Electronics, Chemistry, Physics, etc.

Is biology a useless major?

It depends, if you don’t decide to pursue your graduate studies, yes, it’s useless. However, if you decide to continue your studies (in any field you want, especially in the health sciences) it will be beneficial.

Is data science a STEM degree?

Yes, data science is a STEM Degree. Data science requires the development of skills in: Computer Science and Statistics.

Are STEM majors harder?

Sometimes it can be considered as ” harder ” because there are usually many concepts and you must have a good command of mathematics, which can make the area of study difficult.

Are STEM majors better?

The STEM Degrees have more opportunities and job opportunities, over there we could say that they are “better”, but in reality, the other fields of study are already catching up.

In this brief guide we answered the question ‘’Is biology considered a STEM major?’’ We identified the aspects that make biology a science and why it’s considered a STEM Major.

If you have any questions or comments please let us know!

References

Breckler, S. J. (2020). “S” is for science. Retrieved October 13, 2020, from https://www.apa.org website: https://www.apa.org/monitor/sep07/sd#:~:text=The%20STEM%20acronym%20is%20used%20widely%2C%20especially%20in%20science%20education%20circles.&text=The%20program%20is%20only%20for,chemistry%2C%20astronomy%20and%20materials%20science.

Carnevale, A. P., Smith, N., & Melton, M. (2011). STEM: Science Technology Engineering Mathematics. Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

Moody, J. (2019). A Guide to STEM Majors. Retrieved October 13, 2020, from US News & World Report website: https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/2019-01-24/a-guide-to-stem-majors

‌‌Wang, X. (2013). Why students choose STEM majors: Motivation, high school learning, and postsecondary context of support. American Educational Research Journal, 50(5), 1081-1121.

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