Bachelor of Arts in General Biology
All Biology concentrations are impacted, which means that students must first enroll as pre-biology majors. Upon successful completion (C- or better) of two courses in the major, students may apply to become a Biology major. Both new transfer and on-campus students wishing to change majors are required to submit an additional departmental application. See the departmental website biology.sfsu.edu for supplemental program application and deadlines.
General Information and Requirements
- Candidates entering the bachelor’s programs in Biology should have completed three years of high school mathematics and one year of high school chemistry to allow completion of the curriculum in a timely fashion (see Undergraduate Admission Requirements).
- All major coursework must be completed with letter grades (CR/NC is not acceptable).
- A minimum grade point average of 2.0 in all coursework is required to receive a degree in these programs.
- To remain enrolled in a biology course, students must be prepared to provide copies of transcripts demonstrating completion of prerequisite courses with a grade of C- or better.
- At least 12 units in biology must be completed at SF State.
- Early in the first semester, and at regular intervals thereafter, students must consult with a biology advisor to plan a program of study. For the most current advising information, go to biology.sfsu.edu.
Program Learning Outcomes
- Understanding the Process of Science: Students will demonstrate how a theory is supported or can be rejected based on data from experiments.
- Quantitative Reasoning: Students will be able to create graphs and perform simple statistical tests to determine whether or not differences between groups are significant.
- Relationship Between Science and Society: Students will be able to explain a biological process or phenomenon as it relates to a societal issue.
- Evolution: Students will be able to understand the fundamental concepts of evolution, role of selective pressures, and how genes change.
- Relationship Between Structures and Function: Students will be able to describe how variation in the structure of an organ in a plant or animal contributes to variation in its function.
- Information Flow and Storage: Students will be able to explain the transmission of heritable traits.
Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR)
Students must earn a C or better in a GWAR course to satisfy the requirement.
Biology majors have flexibility for which GWAR course they can take to meet their requirement, as long as the prerequisites for the course have been completed.
- Cell & Molecular Biology majors should take BIOL 351GW;
- Microbiology majors should take BIOL 402GW;
- Botany, Ecology, and Zoology majors may choose between BIOL 475GW, BIOL 478GW, or BIOL 529GW;
- Marine Biology majors may choose between BIOL 570GW or BIOL 631GW; and
- Physiology majors may choose between BIOL 613GW or BIOL 631GW.
- General Biology majors may take any BIOL GWAR class.
See also the Department of Biology home page for GWAR in Biology: biology.sfsu.edu/content/gwar or contact a departmental advisor for further information.
The department does not permit multiple concentrations within the biology degree program. All of the curricula require preliminary work in physics and chemistry because many important biological concepts are based squarely upon principles in the physical sciences. Also, each curriculum includes upper-division work in the biological sciences so that students will receive reasonable breadth and depth in their degree program. Because of the sequential arrangement of courses students are urged to consult the descriptions for the prerequisites of all their courses.
Although course electives are listed for most of the majors, new electives are always being added to various programs. Therefore, we highly recommend that students seek advisement prior to enrolling in elective courses in their major.
Bachelor of Arts in Biology, General
The curriculum in general biology provides students with exposure to a broad spectrum of biological sciences including genetics, cell biology, physiology, ecology, and organismal and evolutionary biology. Since basic principles of physical science are central to many biological concepts, coursework in physics and chemistry is included in the lower-division requirements. The B.A. program is suited for students preparing for professional schools, including teacher credentialing programs, or careers that require students to be versed in diverse areas of biology.
Students preparing to become teachers should note that additional science preparation beyond the major is required (geosciences breadth: meteorology, astronomy, geology, and oceanography). It is important to consult early and often with a credential advisor in the biology department to plan the major and keep abreast of any state-mandated changes in requirements.
General Biology (B.A.) — 57 units
General Education Met in the Major
General Education requirements met in the Biology major (all concentrations) or Undeclared with Interest in Biology:
The requirements below are deemed “met in the major” upon completion of the courses listed (even though the courses and their prerequisites are not approved for GE). This is true whether or not the student completes the major.
Areas B2 (Life Science) and B3 (Laboratory Science) are satisfied upon completion of BIOL 240.
Upper-Division General Education, Physical, and Life Sciences (UD–B) is satisfied upon completion of BIOL 355.
Lower-Division Requirements (32–33 units)
|BIOL 230||Introductory Biology I||5|
|BIOL 240||Introductory Biology II||5|
|CHEM 115||General Chemistry I: Essential Concepts of Chemistry||5|
|CHEM 130||General Organic Chemistry (CHEM 233 also acceptable)||3|
|CHEM 215||General Chemistry II: Quantitative Applications of Chemistry Concepts (CHEM 216 is recommended)||3|
|MATH 124||Elementary Statistics||3-4|
|or MATH 226||Calculus I|
|PHYS 111||General Physics I||3|
|PHYS 112||General Physics I Laboratory||1|
|PHYS 121||General Physics II||3|
|PHYS 122||General Physics II Laboratory||1|
Upper Division Requirements (24–25 units)
|Select one physiology course:||3|
|Select one cell biology course:||3|
|Forensic Genetics: Math Matters|
|Select one physiology or cell biology laboratory course associated with a course selected from above: 1||2-4|
|Experiments in Cell and Molecular Biology - GWAR|
|General Microbiology Laboratory - GWAR|
|Microbial Physiology Laboratory|
|Plant Molecular Physiology Laboratory|
|Human Physiology Laboratory - GWAR|
|Animal Physiology Laboratory - GWAR|
|Select one ecology course:||3-4|
|Ecology of Infectious Diseases|
|Plant Ecology - GWAR|
|Marine Ecology Laboratory|
|Select one evolutionary or organismal biology course: 1||3-5|
|Evolutionary Developmental Biology|
|Herpetology - GWAR|
|Ornithology - GWAR|
|Evolution and Diversity of Plants|
|Biology of the Algae|
|Biology of the Fungi|
|Comparative Anatomy of Vascular Plants|
|Marine Invertebrate Zoology|
|Biology of Fishes - GWAR|
|Bioinformatics and Genome Annotation|
Select four to eight units in consultation with an advisor from among all upper division Biology courses. Only one of the following courses can be included among those selected: BIOL 317, BIOL 327, BIOL 330, and BIOL 349. Up to three units of BIOL 699 can also be used towards the total of four to eight units. All Biology courses that have BIOL 230 and/or BIOL 240 as prerequisites can also be used as electives. This includes courses already listed previously under each of the category subheadings, but not used to satisfy the requirements of those categories.
|BIOL 240||Introductory Biology II||5|
|BIOL 332||Health Disparities in Cancer||3|
|BIOL 344GW||Research Skills - GWAR||3|
|BIOL 350||Cell Biology||3|
|BIOL 358||Forensic Genetics: Math Matters||4|
|BIOL 401||General Microbiology||3|
|BIOL 425||Emerging Diseases||3|
|BIOL 453||General Parasitology||3|
|BIOL 460||General Entomology||4|
|BIOL 461||Insect Taxonomy||4|
|BIOL 464||Medical Entomology||3|
|BIOL 470||Natural History of Vertebrates||4|
|BIOL 475GW||Herpetology - GWAR||3|
|BIOL 478GW||Ornithology - GWAR||4|
|BIOL 490||Ecology of Infectious Diseases||4|
|BIOL 492||Comparative Anatomy of Vertebrates||4|
|BIOL 500||Evolution and Diversity of Plants||4|
|BIOL 502||Biology of the Algae||3|
|BIOL 504||Biology of the Fungi||4|
|BIOL 514||Plant Taxonomy||5|
|BIOL 525||Plant Physiology||3|
|BIOL 526||Plant Molecular Physiology Laboratory||2|
|BIOL 529GW||Plant Ecology - GWAR||4|
|BIOL 530||Conservation Biology||3|
|BIOL 532||Restoration Ecology||3|
|BIOL 534||Wetland Ecology||4|
|BIOL 550||Plant and Animal Interactions||4|
|BIOL 555||Marine Invertebrate Zoology||4|
|BIOL 556||Natural History of Marine Invertebrates||4|
|BIOL 570GW||Biology of Fishes - GWAR||4|
|BIOL 577||Ecological and Environmental Modeling||4|
|BIOL 582||Biological Oceanography||4|
|BIOL 600||Animal Behavior||3|
|BIOL 607||Conservation and Management of Marine Mammals||3|
|BIOL 609||Physics in Medicine||3|
|BIOL 612||Human Physiology||3|
|BIOL 614||Vertebrate Histology||4|
|BIOL 616||Cardiorespiratory Physiology||3|
|BIOL 621||Reproductive Physiology||3|
|BIOL 622||Hormones and Behavior||3|
|BIOL 630||Animal Physiology||3|
|BIOL 638||Bioinformatics and Genome Annotation||4|
|BIOL 640||Cellular Neurosciences||3|
|BIOL 652||Science Education Partners in Biology||4|
Substitutions allowed upon signed advisor consent.
Note: A minimum of 40 upper-division units must be completed for the degree (including upper-division units required for the major, general education, electives, etc.). A student can complete this major yet not attain the necessary number of upper division units required for graduation. In this case, additional upper-division courses will be needed to reach the required total.
Students in the B.A. biology program will satisfy the Complementary Studies Requirement with the completion of courses in chemistry, physics, and mathematics that are required for the major.
Students who have earned AA-T or AS-T degrees and are pursuing a similar B.A. degree at SF State are required to fulfill the Complementary Studies requirement as defined by the major department. Students should consult with a major advisor about how transfer units and/or SF State units can best be applied to this requirement in order to ensure degree completion within 60 units.
General Education Requirements
|Requirement||Course Level||Units||Area Designation|
|Written English Communication||LD||3||A2|
|Arts or Humanities||LD||3||C1 or C2|
|Social Sciences: US History||LD||3||D2|
|Social Sciences: US & CA Government||LD||3||D3|
|Lifelong Learning and Self-Development (LLD)||LD||3||E|
|Physical and/or Life Science||UD||3||UD-B|
|Arts and/or Humanities||UD||3||UD-C|
|SF State Studies|
|Courses certified as meeting the SF State Studies requirements may be upper or lower division in General Education (GE), a major or minor, or an elective.|
|American Ethnic and Racial Minorities||LD or UD||3||AERM|
|Environmental Sustainability||LD or UD||3||ES|
|Global Perspectives||LD or UD||3||GP|
|Social Justice||LD or UD||3||SJ|
Note: LD = Lower-Division; UD = Upper-Division.
First-Time Student Roadmap (4 Year)
Find the correct roadmap (A, B, C, or D):
- Select the row that matches your English Course choice for A2.*
- Select the column that matches your QR Category (found at your student center under Math Alert).
- Click the Roadmap that lines up with your row and column.
For example, if you are taking ENG 104 as your first English course and your student center math alert says you are QR Category III, you should choose Roadmap D.
|Pathway||QR Cat I/II||QR Cat III/IV|
|ENG 114||Roadmap A||Roadmap C|
|ENG 104/ENG 105||Roadmap B||Roadmap D|
Transfer Student Roadmap (2 Year)
For students with an AS-T in Biology. This roadmap opens in a new tab.
This degree program is an approved pathway (“similar” major) for students earning the ADT in Biology
California legislation SB 1440 (2009) mandated the creation of the Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT) to be awarded by the California Community Colleges. Two types of ADTs are awarded: Associate in Arts for Transfer (AA-T) and Associate in Science for Transfer (AS-T).
Note: no specific degree is required for admission as an upper-division student. However, the ADT includes specific guarantees related to admission and graduation and is designed to clarify the transfer process and strengthen lower-division preparation for the major.
An ADT totals 60 units and in most cases includes completion of all lower-division General Education requirements and at least 18 units in a specific major. (The Biology, Chemistry, and Environmental Science AS-T degrees defer 3 units in lower-division GE area C and 3 units in lower division GE area D until after transfer.) Students pursuing an ADT are guaranteed admission to the CSU if minimum eligibility requirements are met, though not necessarily to the CSU campus of primary choice.
Upon verification that the ADT has been awarded prior to matriculation at SF State, students are guaranteed B.A. or B.S. completion in 60 units if pursuing a “similar” major after transfer. Determinations about “similar” majors at SF State are made by faculty in the discipline.
Degree completion in 60 units cannot be guaranteed when a student simultaneously pursues an additional major, a minor, certificate, or credential.
A sample advising roadmap for students who have earned an ADT and continue in a "similar" major at SF State is available on the Roadmaps tab on the degree requirements page for the major. The roadmap displays:
- How many lower-division units required for the major have been completed upon entry based on the award of a specific ADT;
- Which lower-division requirements are considered complete upon entry based on the award of a specific ADT;
- How to complete the remaining 60 units for the degree in four semesters.
Students who have earned an ADT should seek advising in the major department during the first semester of attendance.
General Advising Information for Transfer Students
- Before transfer, complete as many lower-division requirements or electives for this major as possible.
- The following courses are not required for admission but are required for graduation. Students are strongly encouraged to complete these units before transfer; doing so will provide more flexibility in course selection after transfer.
- a course in U.S. History
- a course in U.S. & California Government
For information about satisfying the requirements described in (1) and (2) above at a California Community College (CCC), please visit http://www.assist.org. Check any geographically accessible CCCs; sometimes options include more than one college. Use ASSIST to determine:
- Which courses at a CCC satisfy any lower-division major requirements for this major;
- Which courses at a CCC satisfy CSU GE, US History, and US & CA Government.
Remedial courses are not transferable and do not apply to the minimum 60 units/90 quarters required for admission.
Additional units for courses that are repeated do not apply to the minimum 60 units required for upper-division transfer (for example, if a course was not passed on the first attempt or was taken to earn a better grade).
Before leaving the last California Community College of attendance, obtain a summary of completion of lower-division General Education units (IGETC or CSU GE Breadth). This is often referred to as a GE certification worksheet. SF State does not require delivery of this certification to Admissions, but students should retain this document for verifying degree progress after transfer.
Credit for Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or College-Level Examination Program courses: AP/IB/CLEP credit is not automatically transferred from the previous institution. Units are transferred only when an official score report is delivered to SF State. Credit is based on the academic year during which exams were taken. Refer to the University Bulletin in effect during the year of AP/IB/CLEP examination(s) for details regarding the award of credit for AP/IB/CLEP.
Students pursuing majors in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines often defer 6-9 units of lower-division general education in Areas C and D until after transfer to focus on preparation courses for the major. This advice does not apply to students pursuing associate degree completion before transfer.
Transferring From Institutions Other Than CCCs or CSUs
Review SF State's lower-division General Education requirements. Note that, as described below, the four basic skills courses required for admission meet A1, A2, A3, and B4 in the SF State GE pattern. Courses that fulfill the remaining areas of SF State’s lower-division GE pattern are available at most two-year and four-year colleges and universities.
Of the four required basic skills courses, a course in critical thinking (GE A3) may not be widely offered outside the CCC and CSU systems. Students should attempt to identify and take an appropriate course no later than the term of application to the CSU. To review more information about the A3 requirement, please visit http://bulletin.sfsu.edu/undergraduate-education/general-education/lower-division/#AAEL.
Waiting until after transfer to take a single course at SF State that meets both US and CA/local government requirements may be an appropriate option, particularly if transferring from outside of California.
All Students Must Meet the Transfer Eligibility Requirements Outlined Below for Admission.
For more information, visit the Undergraduate Admissions section.
- Complete 60 or more transferable semester units or 90 or more quarter units
- Earn a college grade point average of 2.0 or better in all transferable courses. Non-local area residents may be held to a higher GPA standard.
- Be in good standing at the last college or university attended
- Complete 30-semester units (45-quarter units) of general education, including four basic skills courses:
- One course in oral communication (same as CSU GE Area A1)
- One course in written composition (same as CSU GE Area A2)
- One course in critical thinking (same as CSU GE Area A3)
- One course in mathematics or quantitative reasoning (same as CSU GE Area B4)
- The four basic skills courses and a minimum of 60 transferable semester units (90-quarter units) must be completed by the spring semester prior to fall admission, or by the fall semester prior to spring admission. Earn a "C-" or better grade in each basic skills course.