• Requirements for Completing the Biology Major

    The Core (taken in sequence)

    • BIO 110 Principles of Evolution, Ecology & Heredity
    • BIO 210 Biostatistics
    • BIO 220 Principles of Physiology & Development
    • BIO 230 Cell Biology
    • BIO 305 Genetics


    Five Biology electives.  At least four must have a lab. You may take (but are not required to take) one seminar course that does not have a traditional lab component.

    Writing Requirement in Biology

    One of the five electives must be designated as a writing-intensive course (“BWR” course).


    • CHM 111 General Chemistry I
    • CHM 112 General Chemistry II
    • CHM 211 Organic Chemistry I
    • PHY 111 Fundamental Physics I
    • MAT 109 Calculus I
    • BIO 210 Biostatistics or  PSY 230 (Experimental Design and Statistics) or both MAT 216 (Probability) and MAT 316 (Mathematical Statistics)

    Transferring course credits from other institutions​

    Courses taken elsewhere during the summer (at accredited institutions, field stations, etc.) can often be transferred back to F&M for credit. At F&M the chair of the department in which the credit is sought is responsible for the decision on awarding credit. Students must plan ahead with their advisor so that the request for transfer of credits is reviewed by the appropriate department chair well before the summer. We normally expect that the BIO core courses will be completed at F&M. As with Study Abroad, up to two summer courses may be transferred back as elective credits, and independent studies are not transferable as credit toward the major.  Our policy statement on this subject is available on the web site.

    Courses taken during the summer that are transferred back to F&M for credit toward the BIO major can benefit student schedules for several reasons: (1) the credits may free up course slots at F&M for students interested in completing a minor, studying abroad, or simply exploring other areas of interest; (2) courses taken during the summer may be on topics that are not offered in the F&M Biology department; and (3) summer credits may facilitate completion of the major in four years for students who either do not begin the major in their first year, or who have had to drop required courses due to illness, family emergency, or academic difficulty.

    Additional information about the Biology major

    1. All Biology courses except BIO 110 have pre-requisites in Biology or other departments.

    2. Most electives require only BIO 110 and BIO 220 as pre-requisites. Some electives require BIO 230. Few courses require BIO 305. This means it may be possible for you to begin taking electives before your junior year or as you complete BIO 305, depending on your interests.

    3. Most courses above BIO 305 also require permission of the instructor during registration.

    4. One credit of BIO 391 (Directed Readings) may count as a non-lab elective toward the major.

    5. Up to two credits of BIO 390 or 490 (Independent Study) may count as lab electives toward the major. Independent Study also satisfies the Writing requirement in Biology.

    6. Internships for Credit (BIO 299, 399, or 499) do not count toward the major since they are automatically graded as Pass/No Pass according to college rules.

    7. Three of the five electives must be “regular” courses (i.e., not Directed Readings, Independent Study, or Internship for Credit).

    8. Enrollment in most Biology electives is capped at no more than 16 students (or 16 per section) in order to provide the best learning environment for majors in smaller upper-level courses. This means that some students may not be able to enroll in some elective courses in some semesters.

    9. Student preferences for electives are handled through Biology Elective Poll forms that are distributed prior to pre-registration for the following term. Several factors are used to determine priority for course slots if more than 16 students request a given course. These factors include class year, how many electives a student still needs to complete the major, whether this is the first or second request for the same course, constraints due to study abroad, the need to complete the department writing requirement, and other circumstances. Please see the document titled The Biology Elective Poll:  Why it Exists, How it Works.

    10. Pre-Health Professions students are required to take BIO 110 and BIO 220. It is also highly recommended that they take BIO 230. These are the only courses in Biology that most PHA students must complete. Some health professions schools expect advanced coursework in Biology as well, but in only a few cases are specific courses required (e.g., microbiology for some veterinary medicine schools). PHA students should discuss their Biology elective course needs with the PHA Advisor and with their Biology major advisor.

    11. PHA students also must take the second semesters of calculus (MAT 110), organic chemistry (CHM 212), and physics (PHY 112).

    12. Students interested in graduate school may need to take additional courses in math and other sciences, depending on their interests.

    13. Study abroad can usually be fit into the schedule for the major with little difficulty so long as the student plans ahead in a timely manner with BIO faculty, the department chair, and the International Programs and Off-Campus Study office on campus. Appropriate courses can often be transferred from abroad for Biology elective credit, but we normally expect that majors will take all four core courses at F&M. Study abroad is usually done in the junior year. If it is in the spring, it will not conflict with completing the core (i.e., BIO 305). If it is in the fall, then students can postpone completion of the core until the senior fall or try to take the equivalent of the BIO 305 course abroad.

    14. Under normal circumstances, up to two study abroad credits may be counted as BIO electives toward the major. Courses transferred back for a lab elective credit must have the equivalent of at least 35 hrs of lab during the semester. We do not transfer courses from abroad as Independent Study (BIO 390, BIO 490) since we maintain specific standards for the research component of Independent Study in our department and expect that a BIO 390 or 490 will be done with F&M faculty. (Such a course could transfer to F&M as a general credit toward graduation, however.)

    15. There are asymmetric patterns of elective course offerings across fall and spring terms. In general, organismal and sub-organismal courses (e.g., Vertebrate Anatomy, Biochemistry, Developmental Biology) are usually offered in the spring while supra-organismal courses (e.g., Ecology, Forest Ecosystems, Insects) are usually offered in the fall. This is because of faculty commitments to the core courses. For example, the faculty in BIO 110 teach courses in ecology, evolution, and field biology. Therefore, students interested in such courses will have more options in fall semesters than in spring when the faculty are involved in BIO 110. Majors should plan their junior and senior years to take this asymmetry into account.

    16. Many BIO faculty alternate electives every other year. This means that majors may have only one opportunity to take a particular elective in their final two years at F&M, and this should also be taken into account when planning the course schedule. Students should ask the course instructor or the department chair when a course of interest will be offered in the future.

    17. Some electives are offered by replacement faculty when an F&M faculty member goes on leave. But this is not always guaranteed, particularly for electives with lower enrollments. So majors should also check to see if elective courses they want to take are going to be offered by the F&M professor, by a replacement professor, or not offered at all in upcoming years.

    18. Students thinking about doing internships for credit, directed readings, or independent study should talk with BIO faculty and the chair (if appropriate) as soon as possible, and as far as possible in advance of the semester in which it will be done. This is especially important for BIO 390 and 490, which are research experiences. Students need to talk with prospective research advisors well in advance so that adequate planning for the research can be completed.

    19. The requirements and structure of the Biology major exist for many carefully considered reasons, and so we expect that students will meet these requirements if they wish to major in the department. However, unusual circumstances sometimes arise that pose problems for completing the major in the typical fashion as listed (e.g., studying abroad for an entire year, or coming in as a transfer student and trying to figure out how to finish the major here). We (especially your advisor and the department chair) encourage you to talk with us about your situation as soon as possible. We will work with you in whatever ways are appropriate and fair to other majors to make it possible for you to meet your educational goals in biology.

    Typical Four-Year Schedule For The Biology Major

    Bold-face indicates required courses taken in the preferred semesters/years.
    Parentheses indicate required courses that can be taken at alternative times.

    Year 1
    • CHM 111 BIO 110
    • CHM 112
    Year 2
    • BIO 220 BIO 230
    • CHM 211 (BIO 210)
    • (BIO elective)
    Year 3
    • BIO 305 (BIO 210)
    • (PHY 111) (BIO elective)
    • (BIO 210)
    Year 4
    • (PHY 111) (BIO elective)
    • (BIO elective) (BIO elective)
    • (BIO elective) (BIO 210)
    • (BIO 210)

    Notes:  MAT 109 can fit several places, but should be completed by the end of the sophomore year if possible, and in advance of PHY111. BIO 210 should be completed as early as possible. One of: CHM211, MAT110, CPS111, GEO110, and ENV/GEO114 must also be completed. Only five BIO electives need to be completed.

    Completing The Major When Chemistry Is Not Taken In Year 1

    Year 1
    • BIO 110
    Year 2
    • BIO 220 CHM 112
    • CHM 111 (BIO elective)
    • (BIO 210)
    Year 3
    • CHM 211 BIO 230
    • (BIO elective) (BIO 210)
    • (BIO 210) (BIO elective)
    Year 4
    • BIO 305 (BIO 210)
    • PHY 111 (BIO elective)
    • BIO elective (BIO elective)
    • (BIO 210)

    Notes:  MAT 109 can fit several places, but should be completed by the end of the sophomore year if possible. BIO 210 should be completed as early as possible. Only five BIO electives need to be completed.

    Completing The Major When Starting In The Sophomore Year

    (Assuming no chemistry, math, or biology completed before sophomore year)

    Year 2
    • CHM 111
    • BIO 110
    • CHM 112
    Year 3
    • BIO 220 BIO 230
    • CHM 211 BIO elective
    • (BIO 210) (BIO 210)
    • (BIO elective)
    Year 4
    • BIO 305 BIO elective

  • First Semester Biology

    Should I take biology my first semester?

    The initial biology course is typically not offered during the fall semester.  F&M students pursuing coursework in biology begin with Biology 110 (Principles of Evolution, Heredity and Ecology) during the spring semester of the first year.


  • AP or IB Credit

    What if I have AP or IB credit in the math and/or the sciences?

    It is often appropriate that students with AP or IB credit in science courses consult with a faculty member during the summer to clarify and work out their proper placement.  If you are considering medical school and wish to use AP credit for an introductory science course, be advised that many medical schools have a variation of the following policy: "AP coursework can be used to fulfill basic premedical requirements if they are supplemented by more advanced course work in that subject." Questions regarding AP credit and the health professions can be addressed to the Director of Health Professions Advising.  An appointment can be requested here.

    What if I have AP or IB credit in biology?

    An Advanced Placement (AP) Biology exam score of 4 or 5 is awarded one credit listed on the transcript as Biology (BIO) 179. This biology credit may satisfy the Natural Science with Lab general education requirement, but BIO 179 does not count toward any life science major course requirements. Students interested in studying biology at F&M typically start the biology curriculum with Biology 110 during spring semester of the first year.

    Occasionally students with International Baccalaureate (IB) credit in biology, if they are considering further study of biology, wish to take Biology 220 in their first semester or qualify to take Biology 230 during their second semester. Although F&M generally advises students not to take two laboratory sciences in the first semester (such as Chemistry 111 and Biology 220), such a schedule may be appropriate for some students. To discuss this option, you should contact the Associate Chair of Biology, Professor Jaime Blair; 717-358-3959, as soon as possible in the summer so that it may be determined if it is appropriate for you to receive credit for Biology 110 and/or Biology 220, and thus move directly into Biology 220 or Biology 230.


  • Transferring Course Credits from Other Institutions

    Students should contact the associate chair of the Biology Department. Students should read the sections of the F&M Catalog dealing with transfer credit.  The following information should be provided to the associate chair 4 weeks before the course begins.

    1. Full name and address of the institution (and the specific branch campus, if appropriate) at which the course will be taken, and the URL for the course catalog.

    2. Official information that lists the course number, title, number of credits, and description.  This can be a photocopy from the catalog or a printout from the web site. 

    3. Official information (photocopy or printout from web site) from the semester master schedule that indicates the duration of the semester (number of days/weeks) and the lecture hours per week (or per semester) and laboratory hours per week (or per semester).

    4. Syllabi for both the lecture and laboratory components, as provided by the instructor or department at the institution.

    5. The Registrar’s Approval Form for courses taken at other institutions.


    1. The typical F&M Biology course meets for about 42 lecture periods (50 minutes each) and 13 lab periods (3-4 hours each). Field courses with extended trips will be evaluated in terms of the total lab hours. Courses that fall far short of those values will not be approved as a specific F&M Biology course.  A course with insufficient lab hours could still be considered for credit as a non-lab elective course. 

    2. Courses must have the same or similar prerequisites as the comparable F&M course.  For example, a microbiology course taught without a biology prerequisite will not be approved as an upper level elective, whereas a microbiology course with a prerequisite of one year of biology (and that meets the other criteria) would likely be approved.

    3. Upper level courses for which there is no comparable F&M course could be approved as electives for the major if they satisfy the criteria.

    4. Introductory courses that do not reasonably match the content of BIO 110/220/230/305 may not substitute for those courses, but could be approved as Natural Science Laboratory courses.

    5. The equivalent to one F&M course is 4 semester hours or 6 quarter hours at institutions using those systems.  Some institutions list the lecture and lab courses separately; that is acceptable as long as the total credit requirement is met.  Fractional credit can be given, based on F&M’s formula (see the catalog).