Is Biology a Hard Major? (With Student Quotes)

Are you thinking about majoring in biology, but wondering, is biology a hard major? 

Biology is one of the STEM majors and a popular one for students who are interested in pursuing careers in the medical field. 

Like most majors, biology has its pros and cons. On the plus side, you get to study plants, animals, and human beings. And you also learn how to think critically and solve problems. But on the downside, you might not find many jobs after graduation.

I’m going to share with you my personal experience with biology as my major at Stanford. I’ll talk about what I liked and didn’t like about studying biology.

And if you decide to go down the path of biology, then I’ll give you some tips on how to make sure you choose the right major.

Biology Major
Biology Major

Is Biology a Hard Major?

Since you want to know, let’s start by discussing whether or not biology is a challenging major.

It’s not because biology is hard to understand that it’s a difficult major. Actually, understanding it is fairly simple. Simply put, there is so much information available that it can occasionally be overwhelming.

So allow me to explain why biology is regarded as a challenging degree.

It takes a lot of study to master biology. Each week, you must devote hours to studying your material and completing your assignments. There is a lot of material that has to be reviewed and memorized. This indicates that studying takes up more than half of your time.

A lot of lab time is needed for biology. Lab tools like microscopes, petri dishes, test tubes, centrifuges, and computers are required. Biology lab exercises can be challenging and intricate. You will also need to learn the crucial ability of writing lab reports.

The core courses in biology are challenging. I had to take beginning biology courses as well as breadth courses in chemistry, physics, math, and statistics during my first two years of the biology major at Stanford. There are also time-consuming exploratory lab courses available.

Numerous skills are needed in biology. You will need to strengthen and develop your problem-solving, critical thinking, creative, mathematical, and communication abilities as you study biology.

Biology necessitates study and laboratory time. Biology majors at Stanford are encouraged to conduct their own original research projects throughout their junior and senior years in college. Small-scale experiments and large-scale studies with hundreds of participants are both viable options for research.

Numerous different courses are needed for biology.

These courses cover topics like anatomy, genetics, microbiology, physiology, cell biology, biochemistry, organic chemistry, molecular biology, immunology, pharmacology, ecology, evolution, botany, zoology, nutrition, and psychology.

Some students might even decide to concentrate on a particular branch of biology, such as evolutionary biology, cancer biology, developmental biology, or neuroscience.

You’ll need to comprehend not only the fundamentals of each system but also how they relate to one another. You’ll need to know about the various living systems, such as plants, animals, fungi, bacteria, viruses, protists, algae, and other microorganisms.

You’ll also need to be aware of how each of those living systems interacts with the others. Last but not least, you’ll need to understand every biological process that takes place inside the cells of those living systems.

Always strive to gain practical experience in labs and on research projects. This will aid your understanding of how biology works in practical settings. If you’re interested in becoming a doctor, then you’ll need to become familiar with all aspects of medical science. Your ability to write well-organized scientific papers is also important.

Compared to other STEM majors, biology may not be as difficult. Physics and chemistry are harder majors than biology because they require more advanced math skills. Biology requires less math, but there are still many concepts that need to be learned. Biology also requires a lot of reading and writing.

Biology Lab Practicals and Experiments
Biology Lab Practicals and Experiments

Biology Major Study Plan and Courses

As a biology major, the foundational courses you take in your freshman and sophomore years will set the stage for the rest of your undergraduate studies. General biology, organic chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology, cellular biology, genetics, and genomics are among the subjects covered in these classes.

You need to finish these courses in addition to upper-level electives in order to receive a bachelor’s degree. Examples of some of the courses you’ll be taking are as follows:

General Biology – Courses in general biology are intended to provide you with an overview of how biology functions. They introduce you to several kinds of organisms and teach you the fundamentals of biology. These lectures teach you the basics of biology and lay the groundwork for understanding the rest of your biology coursework.

Microbiology is the study of microorganisms, which are tiny organisms that are present everywhere around us. It’s crucial to understand microbes since they have the potential to make people sick. You learn about the composition, operation, and interactions of bacteria with their surroundings in microbiology classes.

Cell Biology – The area of biology that studies the composition and operation of cells is known as cellular biology. You learn about the parts of cells, such as organelles, nucleic acids, lipids, proteins, and carbohydrates.

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology – two closely connected branches of biology that study the chemical processes that occur inside of cells. The primary distinction between them is that while molecular biology concentrates on genes and DNA, biochemistry is more concerned with molecules. These two topics are crucial.

Genetics – The study of heredity and variation is known as genetics. It explains why people exhibit various physical traits and behavioral patterns. Through eggs or sperm, genetic material is transferred from parents to offspring. Everything, from eye color to height, is determined by genes. One of the most crucial branches of biology is genetics.

Physiology – The study of the systems and functions of the human body. It instructs you on the cellular processes that take place within the human body. Physiology explains how the brain manages our physical functions and how we react to stimuli.

Evolutionary Biology – The study of biological change over time is called evolutionary biology. This covers adjustments to populations, species, and individuals. You will discover the origins of life and how evolution shaped all current living beings.

Neurobiology – The study of the anatomy and physiology of the nervous system is known as neurobiology. It covers subjects including the brain and spinal cord, as well as muscles, glands, hormones, and sensory organs.

Anatomy – The study of the structures and components of the human body is known as anatomy. It demonstrates the locations of various tissues and organs. It also helps you understand what each component accomplishes.

Chemistry – Science that examines matter and its interactions is called chemistry. It investigates the characteristics of substances and their interactions. Learn more about How Hard Chemistry Class Is

Zoology – The study of animals is known as zoology. It entails researching animal categorization, behavior, habitats, and food.

Ecology – The study of ecosystems is called ecology. It examines the interactions between animals and plants within an ecosystem. Ecologists use models and ideas to comprehend how ecosystems function.

Many colleges provide a list of the courses students must take to graduate. These lists, which are available online, are a great resource for students considering biology as a major. Here are some details on Stanford’s undergraduate biology program, for instance.

Biology and Botany
Biology and Botany

Is Biology Major Just Memorization?

No! Biology is so much more than memorization of facts. Even while there is some memorization required, it is not the field’s main focus. Your teachers will urge you to think critically and work through difficulties instead. By resolving practical problems, they want you to put your knowledge to use.

Before their work is published, many biologists invest years in their research and education. They publish articles and books that inform other scientists about their work. Many universities even mandate that students finish a thesis or dissertation before receiving their degree.

Learning biology entails becoming familiar with the fundamental ideas of life, such as genetics, ecology, and cell structure. Then you can enlarge on particular subjects.

Why is Biology Hard?

Because it covers so many diverse fields of study, biology is challenging. Each subject calls for a particular set of abilities. For instance, you need to understand chemistry and physics if you are interested in cell biology.

Because there are so many different cell types, each with unique specialized functions, biology is difficult. Additionally, there are intricate relationships among cells, tissues, organs, and even organisms. Then there are all those odd terminology like “cytoplasm” and “mitochondria.” Although difficult, biology is worthwhile.

Is Biology the Best Pre-Med Major?

While many students choose to study biology because they think it will help them get into medical school, research shows that those who major in biology are less likely to go into medicine.

According to a recent report published by the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges), applicants who majored in biological sciences were among the least likely of any major to gain admission to medical school.

I chose to major in Biology because I wanted to understand life and its processes. I knew that I wanted to become a doctor, and I had always loved science classes. I also liked the idea of helping others.

Majoring in Biology isn’t the right fit for everyone. There are plenty of majors out there that will help prepare you for medical school. Choosing the right major depends on your personal goals and interests. Some students choose to major in biology because they enjoy science and research, while others may find themselves drawn to the clinical aspects of medicine.

Is Biology Required for Pre-Med?

Biology is not a prerequisite for admission to medical schools. Instead, there are several essential requirements that must be satisfied before applying to medical school. English, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Organic Chemistry are among the requirements.

Some colleges additionally demand additional coursework in subjects like public health or healthcare administration. However, each institution will have its own specific requirements for courses.

Students preparing to become doctors should have a foundational understanding of biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, and math. But studying facts is not the only requirement for medical school. Students must also comprehend the underlying ideas of the sciences and be able to apply them to actual circumstances. Candidates that are hired will possess excellent communication, leadership, and ethical reasoning capabilities.

Consider taking a few non-medical electives during your college years if you’re interested in pursuing a career in medicine. These classes will provide you the opportunity to learn more about what it means to be a doctor overall and to delve into subjects that may be of interest to you in the future.

You can decide to pursue a minor in a different academic field, such as chemistry, biology, or psychology. These courses will be useful to you even if you ultimately decide against studying medicine.

Biology Major Medical Profession
Biology Major Medical Profession

What Can You Do With a Biology Degree?

Biology degrees can be used for many different careers. Most jobs require a bachelor’s degree, although there are exceptions. Some people choose to go to graduate school after obtaining a bachelor’s in biology. Graduates may pursue advanced degrees like PhDs, MDs, or JDs.

Biology degrees can lead to a number of different careers, including medicine, dentistry, veterinary science, nursing, pharmacy, research, teaching, law, public health, and even politics. Having a biology degree helps you get a job in a growing field with an array of lucrative careers. 

Biology is an important subject because it helps us understand life and all living organisms. There are many different careers related to biology, including research, teaching, medical, veterinary, environmental, and forensic professions.

Some of the jobs you may consider are:

Research Scientist – Research scientists help biologists discover new information about life through experiments. They also help them write papers and publish their findings.

Teacher – Teachers teach students about biology. They usually hold degrees in biology, chemistry, or physics.

Forensic Biologist – Forensic biologists use scientific methods to investigate crimes and solve mysteries. They work closely with police officers and prosecutors.

Environmentalist – Environmentalists study how humans impact the environment. They often work to protect wildlife habitats and clean up polluted areas.

Medical Professional – Medical professionals diagnose diseases and treat patients using knowledge gained from studying biology. Doctors, nurses, pharmacists, veterinarians, and dentists are some examples of this type of profession.

Veterinarian – Veterinarians care for animals by diagnosing illnesses and administering treatments. They may specialize in certain types of animals, such as horses, dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, fish, and other mammals.

Pharmacist – Pharmacists dispense medications and advise patients on drug interactions and side effects. They must have a high level of education.

Biochemist – Biochemists study the chemical processes that occur within cells. They conduct experiments to find out more about these processes.

Agricultural and Food Scientist – Agricultural and food scientists develop new products and improve existing ones. They may test crops for pesticides, fertilizers, and disease resistance.

Is Biology a Hard Major? Final Thoughts

College-bound biology majors ought to have confidence. The coursework is demanding yet worthwhile. It imparts valuable knowledge about life and the outside world. You’ll appreciate studying biology if you like learning about the living world.

Learn more about other majors and topics: 

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Written by:

Elizabeth Brown
I’m currently at Harvard Medical School. My undergrad was at Stanford University, majoring in Biology. My career goal as a Pre-med student is to become a cardiac surgeon. I’m passionate about working with people — I have a knack for providing the right treatment at the right time. Fun fact, I’m the one that brought everyone together. I met Chris at Stanford and Amy at Harvard! So glad I’m on this journey with them!

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