Bachelor of Arts in General Biology

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.

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 coursework 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.

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).
  • 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.
  • 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

Program Learning Outcomes

Core Competencies

  1. Understanding the Process of Science: Students will demonstrate how a theory is supported or can be rejected based on data from experiments.
  2. Quantitative Reasoning: Students will be able to create graphs and perform simple statistical tests to determine whether or not differences between groups are significant.
  3. Relationship Between Science and Society: Students will be able to explain a biological process or phenomenon as it relates to a societal issue.

Core Concepts

  1. Evolution: Students will be able to understand the fundamental concepts of evolution, role of selective pressures, and how genes change.
  2. 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.
  3. Information Flow and Storage: Students will be able to explain the transmission of heritable traits.

General Biology (B.A.) — 49-64 units

General Education Requirements Met in the Major

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.

  • Area B1 (Physical Science) is satisfied upon completion of CHEM 130 or CHEM 233.

  • 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 230Introductory Biology I5
BIOL 240Introductory Biology II5
CHEM 115General Chemistry I5
CHEM 130General Organic Chemistry (CHEM 233 also acceptable)3
CHEM 215General Chemistry II: Quantitative Applications of Chemistry Concepts (CHEM 216 is recommended)3
MATH 124Elementary Statistics3-4
or MATH 226 Calculus I
PHYS 111General Physics I3
PHYS 112General Physics I Laboratory1
PHYS 121General Physics II3
PHYS 122General Physics II Laboratory1

Upper-Division Requirements (17-31 units)

BIOL 355Genetics3
One Physiology Course (3 units):
BIOL 442Microbial Physiology3
BIOL 525Plant Physiology3
BIOL 612Human Physiology3
BIOL 630Animal Physiology3
One Cell Biology Course (3-4 units)
BIOL 350Cell Biology3
BIOL 358Forensic Genetics: Math Matters4
BIOL 401General Microbiology3
BIOL 435Immunology3
BIOL 453General Parasitology3
CHEM 349General Biochemistry3
One Physiology or Cell Biology laboratory course associated with a Physiology or Cell Biology course selected from above1 (1-4 units):
BIOL 351GWExperiments in Cell and Molecular Biology - GWAR4
BIOL 402GWGeneral Microbiology Laboratory - GWAR3
BIOL 436Immunology Laboratory2
BIOL 443Microbial Physiology Laboratory2
BIOL 454Parasitology Laboratory1
BIOL 526Plant Molecular Physiology Laboratory2
BIOL 613GWHuman Physiology Laboratory - GWAR3
BIOL 631GWAnimal Physiology Laboratory - GWAR4
One Ecology Course (2-4 units):
BIOL 482Ecology4
BIOL 490Ecology of Infectious Diseases4
BIOL 529GWPlant Ecology - GWAR4
BIOL 532Restoration Ecology3
BIOL 534Wetland Ecology4
BIOL 580Limnology3
BIOL 582Biological Oceanography & Limnology4
BIOL 585Marine Ecology3
BIOL 586GWMarine Ecology Laboratory - GWAR4
One Evolutionary of Organismal Biology Course1 (1-5 units):
BIOL 328Human Anatomy4
BIOL 337Evolution3
BIOL 380Evolutionary Developmental Biology3
BIOL 382Developmental Biology3
BIOL 425Emerging Diseases3
BIOL 453General Parasitology3
BIOL 454Parasitology Laboratory1
BIOL 460General Entomology4
BIOL 475GWHerpetology - GWAR3
BIOL 478GWOrnithology - GWAR4
BIOL 500Evolution and Diversity of Plants4
BIOL 502Biology of the Algae3
BIOL 504Biology of the Fungi4
BIOL 505Comparative Anatomy of Vascular Plants4
BIOL 514Plant Biodiversity and California Field Botany5
BIOL 555Marine Invertebrate Zoology4
BIOL 570GWBiology of Fishes - GWAR4
BIOL 600Animal Behavior3
BIOL 638Bioinformatics and Genome Annotation4

Upper-Division Electives (4-8 units)

Selected 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 3 units of BIOL 699 can also be used towards the total of 4-8 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 332Health Disparities in Cancer3
BIOL 337Evolution3
BIOL 350Cell Biology3
BIOL 358Forensic Genetics: Math Matters4
BIOL 401General Microbiology3
BIOL 425Emerging Diseases3
BIOL 453General Parasitology3
BIOL 460General Entomology4
BIOL 461
BIOL 464
BIOL 470Natural History of Vertebrates4
BIOL 475GWHerpetology - GWAR3
BIOL 478GWOrnithology - GWAR4
BIOL 482Ecology4
BIOL 490Ecology of Infectious Diseases4
BIOL 492
BIOL 500Evolution and Diversity of Plants4
BIOL 502Biology of the Algae3
BIOL 504Biology of the Fungi4
BIOL 514Plant Biodiversity and California Field Botany5
BIOL 525Plant Physiology3
BIOL 526Plant Molecular Physiology Laboratory2
BIOL 529GWPlant Ecology - GWAR4
BIOL 530Conservation Biology3
BIOL 532Restoration Ecology3
BIOL 534Wetland Ecology4
BIOL 550
BIOL 555Marine Invertebrate Zoology4
BIOL 556
BIOL 570GWBiology of Fishes - GWAR4
BIOL 577Climate and Ecological Interactions4
BIOL 580Limnology3
BIOL 582Biological Oceanography & Limnology4
BIOL 600Animal Behavior3
BIOL 607Conservation and Management of Marine Mammals3
BIOL 609Physics in Medicine3
BIOL 612Human Physiology3
BIOL 614Vertebrate Histology4
BIOL 616Cardiorespiratory Physiology3
BIOL 620Endocrinology3
BIOL 621Reproductive Physiology3
BIOL 622Hormones and Behavior3
BIOL 623Pharmacology3
BIOL 627Biophysics3
BIOL 630Animal Physiology3
BIOL 638Bioinformatics and Genome Annotation4
BIOL 640Cellular Neurosciences3
BIOL 652

Substitutions allowed upon signed advisor consent.

Note: A minimum of 30 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.

Complementary Studies

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
Oral Communication LD 3 A1
Written English Communication LD 3 A2
Critical Thinking LD 3 A3
Physical Science LD 3 B1
Life Science LD 3 B2
Lab Science LD 1 B3
Mathematics/Quantitative Reasoning LD 3 B4
Arts LD 3 C1
Humanities LD 3 C2
Arts or Humanities LD 3 C1 or C2
Social Sciences LD 3 D1
Social Sciences: US History LD 3 D2
Lifelong Learning and Self-Development (LLD) LD 3 E
Ethnic Studies LD 3 F
Physical and/or Life Science UD 3 UD-B
Arts and/or Humanities UD 3 UD-C
Social Sciences UD 3 UD-D
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)

  1. The roadmaps presented in this Bulletin are intended as suggested plans of study and do not replace meeting with an advisor. For a more personalized roadmap, please use the Degree Planner tool found in your Student Center.
  2. In order to choose your English Composition A2 course and your QR/Math B4 course, please complete the online advising activities at and Questions? Contact Gator Smart Start.

First-Time Student Roadmap

Transfer Student Roadmap (2 Year)

For students with an AS-T in Biology.
BIOL ADT Roadmap

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

  1. Before transfer, complete as many lower-division requirements or electives for this major as possible.
  2. 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 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 requirements.

Remedial courses are not transferable and do not apply to the minimum 60 semester units/90 quarter units 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 (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

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.