5 California Colleges for Biology Majors

If you hope to study biology at one of California's public universities, any of these schools would make a smart choice.

By Ashley Henshaw | February 17, 2017

Cal Poly Pomona has a a variety of research positions available to its biology students.

Whether you’re pre-med or looking to go into lab work, a biology degree can open the door to a wide variety of career paths. In California, there are several great public universities where you can major in biology -- check out the degree programs at the following five schools.

A biology major can open the door to a number of exciting career possibilities.

1. California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

At California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona), students can choose from the following biology majors: general biology, botany, microbiology, zoology, biotechnology and environmental biology. Meanwhile, minors are available in many of the same fields, and a master’s degree in biological sciences (with a wide variety of specializations) is also offered. Some of the resources available to bio majors at Cal Poly Pomona include a radiation biology center, an ultracentrifuge facility, on-site labs, animal research colonies, greenhouses and controlled environmental chambers. Graduate students also get the opportunity to work in labs focusing on stem cell research, immunology and neurobiology.

2. University of California, Davis

At UC Davis, the graduate program in biological sciences is also ranked highly at 20th in the nation. Graduate students can focus their studies in a range of areas, including neuroscience, population biology and biotechnology. Meanwhile, the undergraduate enrollment in the biology department is massive; in fact, about 20 percent of undergraduate students at UC Davis are enrolled in a biology major. The College of Biological Sciences offer nine majors: biochemistry and molecular biology; biological sciences; cell biology; evolution, ecology and biodiversity; exercise biology; genetics; microbiology; neurobiology, physiology and behavior; and plant biology. Ties to the Bodega Marine Laboratory, the UC Davis Genome Center and other programs provide great hands-on experiences for biology students. In addition, students in the biology undergraduate scholars program get personal and academic support as well as practical experience in a research laboratory.

The biology program at UC Davis is part of its College of Biological Sciences which is colloquially known as CBS.

3. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

At California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly SLO), the biological sciences department offers an undergraduate degree in biological sciences with five concentration options: anatomy and physiology; ecology; field and wildlife biology; marine biology and conservation; and molecular and cellular biology. In addition, students can major in microbiology and choose from minors in environmental studies and biotechnology. At the graduate level, students can earn a master’s degree in biological sciences with an optional emphasis in stem cell research. All students with biology majors have access to a number of excellent resources, including research institutes, on-site laboratories and nearby field study sites.

4. University of California, San Diego

UC San Diego’s graduate program in biology is ranked 15th in the nation. The college offers master’s and PhD programs for its grad students. In addition, there are eight undergraduate biology majors offered at this university: biochemistry and cell biology; biology with a specialization in bioinformatics; ecology, behavior and evolution; general biology; human biology; microbiology; molecular biology; and physiology and neuroscience. Students who hope to earn both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology should check out UC San Diego’s contiguous BS/MS program, which allows students to earn their master’s within three to five quarters after receiving their bachelor’s degree. Students with excellent academic records may be invited to the bioscholars program, which gives them the opportunity to work closely with peers and professors on research projects, participate in networking events, develop their leadership skills, and receive academic and career advice from faculty mentors.

UC San Diego's biology program is the school's most popular field of study.
Photo: Ucsd.edu

5. University of California, Berkeley

The University of California (UC), Berkeley’s biology program is quite large; in fact, it contains separate departments and schools for numerous biology fields, including integrative biology, plant and microbial biology and bioengineering. There are 12 undergraduate biology majors offered throughout these departments. Meanwhile, UC Berkeley’s graduate program in biology is ranked second in the country by U.S. News and World Report. The college partners with a variety of museums, research centers, field stations and institutes to offer excellent research opportunities to biology students.

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