Sep 30, 2023  
Course Catalog 2020-2021 
Course Catalog 2020-2021 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Biology Major

The major consists of a minimum of 11 full courses (or the equivalent).

Note: Students must earn minimum grades of C- or P for all courses that apply toward the major.

16 View the catalog page for the Biology department.   

Summary of Requirements

  1. Three Core Courses
  2. Two Post-Core Biology Department Courses
  3. Two Additional Post-Core Life Sciences Courses (equivalent of two full courses)
  4. Four Full Courses in Affiliated Sciences

No more than two advanced courses from outside the Biology Department (including transfer credits) may count toward the major.
Students must complete at least five lab experiences: three from the required core courses (category A), and two from upper-level courses (one from category B and a second from either category B or C).

Important Considerations/Limitations for the Major

  1. At least 3.5 full biology courses from categories A, B, and C, including two full courses (or the equivalent) of post-core coursework, must be taken at Oberlin.
  2. Post-core coursework taken outside the Oberlin Biology Department and applied to the major may not exceed the equivalent of two full courses.
  3. Private Readings, FYS, Colloquia, and Practicums do not count toward the major.
  4. Students may not receive both academic credit and financial compensation for the same research work.

Transfer of Credit

Credits in biology earned elsewhere may be applied to the Oberlin biology major with the approval of the department chair, as long as at least half of the minimum courses in biology (full courses or equivalent), including two full courses or equivalent of advance course work (defined as 200-, 300-, or 400- level courses, exclusive of 213 and 200, offered by the Biology Department) are completed at Oberlin.

Off-Campus or Summer Study

Students planning off-campus study are advised to consult first with their advisor and then with the Chair to determine acceptability of courses to the major. The department offers limited scholarships for summer course work at approved field (inland and marine) stations in the United States. Applications for these scholarships are invited early in the spring semester; awards are made in May.


Candidates for Honors in Biology enroll as seniors in BIOL 501 and 502, carry out a research project in consultation with a faculty committee, write and defend a thesis based on completed work, and give a required research seminar. Students interested in this program should initiate a discussion of research possibilities with any member of the staff during the junior year. Students are not accepted formally into the Honors Program until their proposed research is reviewed by the department at the beginning of their first semester of research, fall of their senior year.

Preparation for Post-Graduate Education

Medical School, Dental and Veterinary Medicine.  Please see the sub-section “Pre-medical” in the section “The BA degree and Pre-Professional Development.” 

Graduate Schools. Students planning to pursue an advanced degree should consult individual admission requirements of the schools and graduate departments in which they are interested.  For example some graduate schools in biology expect a major in the biological sciences to include:

  • Two years of Chemistry with laboratory.
  • One year of Physics with laboratory.
  • College-level Mathematics (Calculus and Statistics).
  • Courses in Computer Science.

Certain deficiencies in course work may be made up in graduate school but generally not for graduate credit. The majority of graduate schools require the GRE General Examination for admission but there is variation with respect to the Advanced  (subject) requirement. Students are strongly urged to consult with members of the Biology Department in preparing for graduate work.

Biology Major Course Lists

Core Biology Courses

Return to the summary of requirements.

Note: Graduating seniors enrolled in BIOL 213 during the 2020-21 academic year must also enroll in BIOL 214  in the same academic year. All other students enrolled in BIOL 213 during 2020-21 must take BIOL 214  during the 2021-22 academic year.

Post-Core Life Sciences Courses

Return to the summary of requirements.

The equivalent of one full-course in BIO 501 and or BIO 502 may be applied to the major.  One half- or full-course also may count as a laboratory experience.
Coursework from Categories B and C must collectively provide at least 2 lab experiences.