Welcome to Biology at Penn State
Why Biology at Penn State?
Are you looking for the exciting opportunities provided by a large university, yet still wanting to receive individual attention? If so, the Biology Program at Penn State may be a perfect fit for you! Being a top tier research institution, our faculty conduct research on a wide range of topics ranging from coral reef ecology to molecular evolution to the neurological basis underlying mental disorders. Penn State's Biology curriculum is designed to help give you both the breadth and depth you'll need to understand modern biology at all levels of integration. Within the major, we offer the following six options, allowing you to tailor your studies to your specific interests:
- General Biology
- Genetics & Developmental Biology
- Plant Biology
- Vertebrate Physiology
What Can a Biology Degree Do For You?
The Biology major will allow you to pursue exciting careers in diverse fields, including health care, education, research, pharmaceutical sales, law, genetic counseling, medical illustration... The list is nearly endless and only limited by your imagination. A breakdown of the careers our recent graduates entered is shown here:
Health Care (40%)
Our program provides excellent preparation for professional schools including medical, dental, and optometry. About 80% of Penn State Biology majors who apply to medical school are accepted; this is well above the national average of 42%. Other career paths include allied health fields ranging from physical therapy to physician assistant programs.
Many of our graduates accept entry-level research positions in industry, government, non-profit organizations, or universities. Penn State Biology provides a variety of research experience opportunities to prepare students for these positions or for graduate level research programs.
A Penn State Biology degree provides a strong foundation for potential educators. High school level positions require certification through a secondary education program or a master's degree in education. Teaching at the college or university level typically requires a Ph.D.
Other Options (25%)
Our Biology graduates have also entered careers in a wide range of related fields including: pharmaceutical sales or supply, government agencies such as the FDA and EPA, and non-profit conservancy organizations. Please visit our "After Graduation" page (on the menu to left) for more information about what a Biology degree can do for you!
WE ARE ... Distinctive, Applicable, and Significant
Additional Advantages of a Penn State Biology Degree
Although we are a large department, we provide a range of opportunities for you to develop a community within Biology. The BIOME is an excellent example. This special living option allows first-year students interested in the Biology to live as a community in Pollock Halls. Students in the BIOME benefit academically from study groups, tutoring opportunities, and review sessions, and socially from living among peers with similar interests, guest speakers, and monthly movie nights. Similarly focused on both social and professional community is TriBeta, the PSU Biological Honors Society.
Undergraduate research involvement is another way Penn State Biology majors can find a smaller community within the department. The diverse research interests of the Biology faculty provide you with excellent opportunities to become involved with research related to your field of interest. Approximately 75% percent of our undergraduates do research at some time during their four years at Penn State. In fact, many students graduate with one or more publications and/or having displayed their work during a poster exhibition either locally or at national meetings. As a new student, we encourage you to meet faculty, visit their laboratories, and think about becoming involved.
The ability to work as a Learning Assistant or Teaching Assistant is a very distinctive opportunity with our program. Students who have successfully completed certain courses can receive credit for assisting in lecture and laboratory sections of those courses. Learning Assistants help answer student questions in lecture and during office hours, and Teaching Assistants are responsible for running laboratory sections. In both cases you also receive training in teaching methods before you enter the classroom. This is an excellent way to explore your curiosity about a career involving teaching, to reinforce foundational knowledge, and to support your fellow students.
Other ways to get involved include internships, externships, study abroad, and the University's cooperative education (co-op) program, which allows you to spend two semesters working in a company during your undergraduate years. This is a great opportunity to get a glimpse of the real world while simultaneously allowing you to defray educational costs.
Other Special Features of Penn State Biology:
- Lab-driven introductory course work leading to upper level classes spanning all of the life science areas.
- Access to over 60 elite faculty with national and international acclaim
- Opportunities for teaching inside and outside of the classroom
- Global collaborations through semesters abroad, field course excursions, and on location research projects
- Numerous clubs and organizations for student involvement in scientific, philanthropic, and recreational activities
Undergraduates planning to become Biology majors are assigned a faculty adviser when they arrive on campus. In addition to meeting with the officially assigned adviser, students are welcome to visit with any of the advisers in the Biology Undergraduate Advising Office. In the first semester at Penn State all incoming students are required to participate in the course, PSU016 or First Year Seminar. This serves as an orientation to college life and all of the opportunities offered on campus. In addition, the Eberly College of Science offers several 1-credit seminars to aid in career development.
Requirements for Admission
To enter the Eberly College of Science as a premajor (SCIEN), you must have:
1) completed MATH 140 or 140B with a grade of C or better
2) obtained a cumulative GPA of at least 2.0.
Undergraduates usually declare a major at the end of their second year. In order to declare Biology as your major at Penn State, you must have:
1) completed the following courses with a grade of C or better: BIOL 110, MATH 140 or 140B, CHEM 110, and any one of the following BIOL 220W, BIOL 230W, or BIOL 240W
2) attained at least a 2.00 cumulative grade-point average.
*Students intending to transfer from another institution must have completed a minimum of 60 credits, including the equivalent of MATH 140 AND MATH 141, as well as the requirements listed above. For additional information contact the
How to Apply to Penn State
A number of grants, loans, work-study programs, and scholarships are available through Penn State. To learn more about what is available and how to apply, contact:
To Schedule a Campus Tour and Speak with an Adviser
211 Ritenour Building
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park, PA 16802