Biology and Microbiology Degree Information

The Department of Biology offers the following degrees:


Information on coursework requirements for these programs may be found in four places:

  1. The SDSU General Catalog, under Biology. Students are required to follow the degree guidelines for the catalog year in which they entered the Biology premajor, even if those guidelines subsequently change.
  2. The Degree Audit Report (DAR), which can be found within the SDSU WebPortal. For students that have declared their premajor or major, this document provides an accurate, up-to-date summary of progress towards the major, and outstanding requirements.
  3. The official university MyMaps. The roadmaps show how a typical student would progress through the major semester by semester. However, there are many alternative routes.
  4. The Biology department's Checklists, which are posted below. In most cases, the checklists provide the most useful and current version of coursework requirements for the various degrees and emphases. Students should consult the appropriate checklist each year.




B.S. Biology (General degree, no emphasis) B.S. Biology (Emphasis in Cellular and Molecular Biology) B.S. Biology (Emphasis in Ecology)

B.S. Biology (Emphasis in Evolution and Systematics) B.S. Biology (Emphasis in Marine Biology) B.S. Biology (Emphasis in Zoology)

B.S. Biology (Coursework preparation for the Single Subject Teaching Credential)     Click here for more information on teaching

B.S. Microbiology (General degree, no emphasis)

B.S. Microbiology (Emphasis in Clinical Laboratory Science and Public Health Microbiology)
Click here for more information on CLS

B.A. Biology

B.A. Microbiology


Minor in Biology (General degree, no emphasis)

Minor in Biology (Emphasis in Cellular and Molecular Biology)

Minor in Biology (Emphasis in Ecology)

Minor in Biology (Emphasis in Evolutionary Biology) Minor in Biology (Emphasis in Marine Biology) Minor in Biology (Emphasis in Plant Biology)

Pre-health profession students: See Frequently Asked Question #2 below.

Biotechnology certificate





Biology and Microbiology are impacted majors. This does not mean that we limit the number of students that can graduate with these majors. Instead, it means that incoming freshman and transfer students are initially classified as "Premajors." Premajors should be working through introductory coursework, while "Majors" can concentrate on their upper division classes for the major. To move from the premajor to the major requires:

  1. Completion of a core set of 15 introductory courses. See the appropriate checklist for details. All courses must be taken for a grade, and no grade lower than a C is permitted. The GPA in this set of lower division courses must be at least 2.70.
  2. Cumulative GPA in all courses of at least 2.60.
  3. Meet with the biology advisor to have the appropriate paperwork signed.


Top 5 tips for success

  1. Take a reasonable course load.
  2. The single biggest difficulty that university students have is learning to balance their academic responsibilities and their financial responsibilities (i.e., work). If you are working 20+ hours per week, you should probably keep your academic load to no more than 12 units. Suppose you are carrying 12 units (with no labs) and working 20 hours a week. Work and class time would add up to 32 hours a week before you can begin to account for the other necessities, like eating, sleeping, studying, driving between home, school, and work, having a little fun, etc. Also remember that a 1 unit laboratory class will take 2 1/2 hours every week. We do not recommend that any students take more than 2 lab units per semester (whether these 2 are for the same class, or different classes).

  3. Pay attention to the prerequisites.
  4. Prerequisites are placed on a class for a reason. If a course lists chemistry as a prerequisite to a course, then the faculty will expect that you understand chemistry at the prescribed level when you walk into that course. The professor will teach the class based on this expected understanding. The professor has the right to drop students who do not have the prerequisites. It is unwise to take a course without the necessary prerequisites, and then end up with a D or F. If you are having trouble filling your schedule, come see us in the bioadvising office.

  5. Strike a balance between science and non-science courses.
  6. Do not start taking all your GE courses during the freshman year. There are many difficult upper division courses, as well as time-intensive lab courses throughout the major. We advise you to spread out your GE courses across your entire time at SDSU, including your final year. This will help create a reasonable workload each semester. Except for seniors who are in their final semester, try not to carry more than three science courses/semester.

  7. Get started on the Chemistry course sequence immediately.
  8. The Biology major requires three semesters of introductory chemistry, followed by two semesters of Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology. Each of these courses is a prerequisite for the next, and the final two are prerequisites for numerous upper division courses.

  9. Come see us if you get in trouble.
  10. Every semester we counsel students who are in serious academic trouble, and some have been disqualified from the university. Most commonly, these students are in trouble because they have not paid attention to prerequisites or have tried to carry an unreasonable academic load, given their other life responsibilities. Come see us as soon as you start having trouble in your courses. We can help you get on the right track before it is too late.


Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What kind of jobs can I get with my degree?

    • Visit Career Services and register with their Aztec Career Connection service by your sophomore year. See their general information handout for Biology.
    • A brief summary of career opportunities is provided at the top of each degree checklist (download above).
    • Contact local employers that you may be interested in, and find out how often positions open up, how positions are advertised, and the relative importance of the type of degree, GPA, previous research experience and specific skills or courses. Ask if they often hire SDSU grads.
    • Schedule a meeting with the professor within Biology whose research most closely matches your interests, and get their perspective on job opportunities.
    • For advice about graduate school in any area of Biology, get general information from the bioadvising staff and specific information from the professor within Biology whose research most closely matches your interests.

  2. Does SDSU have a Pre-med major? What about other health professions?

    SDSU offers degrees in Biology and Microbiology with the opportunity for emphasis in many areas. We do not have a "Pre-Med" major, but many of our majors aspire to attend medical school or other health profession programs. Visit the web site of our Preprofessional Health Advising Office for specific information about academic preparation in the following areas:

    Prephysician Assistant
    Allied Health Fields

    The director Ms. Barbara Huntington has an excellent track record of helping students submit successful applications to those programs. She would like to meet with you as soon as you get to SDSU. We in the Bioadvising office will make sure that you get your bachelor's degree, while Ms. Huntington will help get you into medical school.
    Click here for a summary checklist of the extra coursework required or recommended for admission to these programs.

    Click here if you are an international student interested in attending medical school in the United States or entering one of the professions listed above.

  3. When should I come in for advising?  How can I make an appointment for advising?
  4. See us for advising:

    • When you need advice on which courses to take
    • When you get a C- or less in any course
    • If you have a lower division GPA < 2.7, or upper division GPA < 2.0
    • Before using course forgiveness
    • Before taking any GE course in the sciences
    • Before taking any course Credit / No Credit
    • When planning for research (Special studies: Bio 497, 499)

    Call the advising office at 619-594-6442, or email us at You may also stop by the office in 135 Life Science North for a walk-in appointment between 8:00-noon and 1:00-4:00, Monday to Friday.

  5. When should I see the university's Office of Advising and Evaluations for advising?
  6. You should see us in the Biology advising office for advice on all science courses. The university's advising office may be able to help with GE and general graduation requirements.

  7. I am doing very poorly in my courses due to major, unforeseen health or personal issues.
  8. See us in the bioadvising office as soon as possible so we can discuss your options. You should also see the list of services that is maintained by the Division of Undergraduate Studies.

  9. When should I repeat a course, or use course forgiveness?
  10. SDSU's rules on course forgiveness and retaking courses changed in Fall 2009. There are limits to the number of units you may repeat, and within those repeats, you can only use a subset for course forgiveness. The new rules are here. Also, you can no longer register for a course if you previously earned a C or better, and you are no longer permitted to repeat a course more than once! Note that for impaction requirements in the premajor, the Biology department may be able to interpret your repeat courses in a different manner than the university.

    Due to the complexity of these rules, see us in the bioadvising office before making any decisions about retaking a course. See us immediately if the university rules about repeating courses are preventing your progress towards graduation.

  11. How do I enter the Biology major from the premajor?
  12. If you have completed the lower division premajor coursework and meet the impaction requirements listed above, come see us in the bioadvising office.

    If you have less than a C in any of the lower division premajor courses, or your premajor GPA is less than 2.7, come see us ASAP before repeating courses.

  13. What is the GWAR? Why do I need to complete it ASAP?
  14. As explained on this web site, you need to take a writing exam called the Writing Placement Assessment (WPA) during the same semester that you are taking your 60th unit. The dates on which you may take the WPA are listed on the web site. If you score less than a 10, you will be required to take 1 or 2 additional writing courses to meet the Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR). You need to earn a C or better in these writing courses!

    You will be blocked from registering for all Biology courses numbered 450 and above until you:

    1. Take the WPA and score an 8 or higher ..
    2. OR ... score a 7 or below on the WPA, and then have one of the following lower division writing courses in progress {RWS 280, RWS 281, LING 281}

    Take the WPA as soon as you are eligible! If you score a 7 or less, take RWS 280/RWS 281/LING 281 the very next semester!

  15. How do I declare a Biology minor?
  16. See us as soon as you are considering a minor in Biology, so we can advise on coursework.

  17. What is an emphasis?
  18. An emphasis is a formal program of study within the major that indicates specialization in a certain area of study. Essentially, an emphasis indicates the focus or concentration of your upper division electives. For example, an Emphasis in Zoology will have similar coursework to a major in Zoology at another institution. Some, but not all, students decide to declare an emphasis.

  19. What are the graduation requirements?

  20. I want to be a Biology teacher. What should I do?
  21. See our information page on teaching at the elementary and secondary levels.

  22. I already have a B.S. in a field other than Biology. Can I get a second Bachelor's degree at SDSU?
  23. San Diego State University is not accepting applications for second bachelor's degrees, except in nursing. UC San Diego also does not accept applications for a second bachelor's degree. In San Diego County, both CSU San Marcos and the University of San Diego appear to take second bachelor's degree students, but check with the admissions counselors at each institution for their most current policies.

  24. I am a transfer student. How can I get my courses from other colleges and universities approved for my degree at SDSU?
  25. Email or visit us in the bioadvising office so we can discuss the process with you. For almost all science courses, we will be your primary contact after you arrive on campus your first semester. You will probably not need to see a counselor from the university-wide Office of Advising and Evaluations. Many courses from California community colleges will articulate automatically with SDSU. SDSU also has established agreements to recognize some courses from other in-state and out-of-state colleges and universities. Your best source of information for SDSU transfer course agreements is the in the SDSU Transfer Admission Planner. That is the current database of all transfer courses that SDSU will automatically accept, and what their equivalency is.

  26. Do I need to complete all of the GE requirements?
  27. Sort of. Not exactly as written in the catalog. This is very important.

    1. Open up your General Catalog to the Graduation Requirements section near the front with the colored pages. Find IX. General Education: Part II (Foundations of Learning): A. Natural Sciences and Quantitative Reasoning. Cross out all four sections of Part A. As a Biology major, Part A will take care of itself. Do not take any extra courses simply to complete this section. The courses listed there (or more advanced courses) are already part of your premajor. However, if you change majors, these rules will apply again.
    2. Turn the page to Part IV: Explorations of Human Experience. Read the sentences in bold. You cannot take one of the listed Biology courses to complete Part A. If you do take an upper division GE Biology course numbered Biology 300-349, that course will not count for your degree or your GE requirements.
    3. Move down two paragraphs, and see the second sentence "(Majors in the departments of astronomy, biology ...". Read this sentence carefully. It says that you have the option of substituting a different course for Part A if you want to.
    4. ... but back up a few pages to General Education: Requirements and Limitations. Note that you can only use a maximum of 7 units from a single department towards the Foundations and Explorations requirements combined.

    See the Bioadvising office for help choosing your GE courses, as well as the science and math courses.

  28. Can I get course credit for a research project with a professor?

    There are significant opportunities for our undergraduates to conduct research with an internationally recognized faculty. Academic Analytics consistently ranked SDSU faculty research productivity highly when they performed these analyses in 2007-2010: #1 out of 92 small research universities in the United States, #15 out of all 155 public research universities, and #35 out of all 222 American research universities. Within SDSU, the department of Biology has one of the strongest research programs, with undergraduate, Master's and PhD programs in the areas of Cell and Molecular Biology, Ecology, and Evolutionary Biology.

    ***Most undergraduate students may apply upper division research coursework towards their degree, and approximately half of our Biology majors participate in research projects while at SDSU.***

    What are the requirements? How do I register? Click here.

  29. What kind of research do Biology professors conduct?
  30. You can see a brief research summary of each professor's research on the Biology department web site, and links to each professor's home page.

  31. What do I do if a course that I need is full? What does it mean to "crash" a course?
  32. See our information page on crashing.

  33. Tell me about diversity at SDSU.
  34. With approximately 33,000 students from a variety of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, San Diego State University is the third largest university in California. US News and World Report ranks SDSU 18th nationally for ethnic diversity, and in the top 3rd for economic diversity. SDSU ranks 2nd nationwide for students studying abroad during college, and international students comprise 4% of the undergraduate student body. SDSU ranks 11th in the nation for bachelor's degrees conferred to ethnic minorities, and 7th in the nation for the most bachelor's degrees awarded to Hispanics. SDSU 1 of only 3 public research universities in California designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. More than 50% of the incoming students come from historically under-represented ethnic groups (For 2013, 56.2% of incoming freshman and 51.3% of new transfer students.)

    As of 2012, SDSU’s current six-year, full-time freshman graduation rate has increased to 66.5% (65.7% for students of color). These numbers exceed the national average of 57% for all four year institutions. (The average for public institutions is 55%. For private not-for-profit institutions it is 65%, and it is only 22% in private for-profit institutions.)

    The Department of Biology serves more than 1500 Biology and Microbiology majors, approx. 80 Biology minors, thousands of students that take Biology courses for pre-nursing and other fields, and the vast majority of non-science majors through its General Education courses. Biology offers 50-60 undergraduate courses per semester.

    As described in FAQ #16 above, our undergraduates have many opportunities to conduct research with an internationally recognized group of faculty.

  35. What resources are available to support groups that are traditionally underrepresented in biology research?
  36. See information on numerous programs on the web site for CASA (Center for the Advancement of students in Academia).

  37. What resources are available to support military veterans and active duty military students on campus?
  38. See the San Diego State University Veterans Center web site.

  39. I am from another country. How can I come to SDSU and study Biology?
  40. Contact the International Student Center. If you wish to earn your Bachelor's degree at SDSU, email International Admissions. If you wish only to visit for a short time (1-2 semesters) and take courses while you are here, contact the Exchange Program.

    If you are an international student who wishes to eventually attend medical school (or another health professions school) in the United States, please read this information page.

  41. I plan to study abroad. How can I get credit for international courses?
  42. Contact the International Student Center, 619-594-2475 or

  43. Can I take courses even if I am not a full-time registered student? What is Open University?
  44. Possibly. If you wish to take courses at SDSU and are not officially enrolled in a graduate or undergraduate program, you may enroll in those courses through the College of Extended Study's Open University. As an "Open University student," you may not register for a particular course until the professor has verified that all regularly enrolled students have enrolled. That will limit your selection in some courses that fill early because they are small and/or heavily utilized by full time students. You can check the online schedule of classes to see the number of seats available for both this semester and past semesters, or email the course instructor to ask if they typically accommodate Open University students. Note that online registration is not available for Open University - you must obtain the instructor's signature in person. Read FAQ # 18 above for more information.

  45. I will be starting at SDSU next fall, and this seems like a lot of information to process.
  46. Please attend one of the Academic Orientation Days over summer, before classes begin (see this web site for the latest information). We will answer your questions and help you plan your courses for fall. Most importantly, you will be able to register early: the next day after the orientation!

    If you are a newly admitted freshman, you need to prepare for orientation by taking a Chemistry placement exam. The relevant information is summarized on this web site.

    If you cannot attend orientation, make sure to examine these Biology Department Advising web pages, especially the checklists above, and the university's MyMap. Come visit us in the Biology undergraduate advising office before you register, if at all possible.


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