It is best to declare biology as a major as soon as possible because priority for enrollment in the core biology classes is given to biology majors.

Pick up a “Change or Declaration of Major” form in the Biology office or at the registrar’s office in Warren Hall and fill it out completely.  If you are a first semester freshman, have the form signed by your freshman advisor then bring it to the Biology office be signed by the biology department head.  If you are not a first semester freshman, just bring it to the biology office.  After the department head has signed it you may walk it to the registrar’s office at 300 Warren Campus Center, or the Biology office will send it there through campus mail.

No.  "Premedicine" (or another pre-professional health program) is only a preprofessional intention and not an academic major.  Most premedical students will obtain a Bachelor's degree from JMU in a major of their choice.  For information about how to prepare for medical school or another preprofesional program see the Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services web page or the undergraduate catalog under Interdisciplinary Programs / Pre-Professional health Programs.

Fill out a “Change or Declaration of Major” form and have it signed by the coordinator in the department that you are entering.  You do not need a signature from biology to drop the major, but you do need a signature of the Academic Coordinator (Bioscience 1028F) if you wish to add BIO as a minor.   These forms are available in the biology office, at the Records Desk 300 Warren Campus Center, or any other department main office.

The official requirements are in the paper and online catalog.  Streamlined versions of the requirements are on this site under “Undergraduate Programs” however, the official listing of requirements is the one in the paper catalog for your year.

We introduce our majors to most of the fields of biology through four required core courses usually taken during the first two years: Organisms (BIO 114), Ecology and Evolution (BIO 124), Cell and Molecular Biology (BIO 214) and Genetics and Development (BIO 224).  Each of these courses is 4-credits and each has a laboratory component.  The latter two courses are taken in the second year because they have a prerequisite of college chemistry.

The courses are designed to be taken in numerical order but sometimes students will take the second and third courses simultaneously if they start the major late and need to catch up.  Depending on space availability, sometimes students with permission will switch the order of the first two courses.

No, some upper division BIO courses do not require all four courses.  However, because registration is by seniority, most upper division courses will fill with seniors and juniors so you may have to wait to take them.  The catalog lists required prerequisites for each course.

We recommend plotting out all of the courses that you want or need to take during your time at JMU.  Count up all of the credits you have on the chart and compare them with the catalog.  Check the catalog to see when certain courses are scheduled to be offered and look for semesters with too many labs and try to spread them out.  Expect to make adjustments to this plan (all courses are not offered every year or the semester of offering may be altered), but just creating it will probably point out issues that you will need to deal with.

No.  The only way to change catalog year is to formally request through the registrar that your catalog year be changed to a later academic year.  If this is done, all requirements including GenEd, major and minor(s) are changed.  Some policies and course requirements are grandfathered to previous catalogs.  Program and degree requirements are keyed to your catalog year, however, changes in a course (pre-requisites, requirement for a lab, credit hours, etc.)  become effective immediately when approved by the University.

Most BIO course will meet the biology major requirements but not all of them.  The following are the exceptions.  BIO 353 and 366 are for IDLS majors and biology majors with a minor in secondary education.  BIO 414 and 440 are for students in the Occupational Therapy program and cannot be used toward the 40 hr BIO requirement.

BIO 270 and 280 were developed specifically for students in other majors such as Health Sciences.  The biology department offers two upper division courses for Biology majors; BIO 370-Animal Physiology and BIO 380-General Microbiology.


Up to 12 credits of Topics courses (BIO 426 and 427) (and previously taken BIO 325 /326 courses) may be counted toward the biology major but only one lab course (BIO 427) will count toward meeting the laboratory requirement.

Biology courses are taught either every semester, once a year, or once every two years. In planning the courses you wish to take, try to create several options.  A listing of new courses, not yet in the catalog is usually posted in the Bioscience Building prior to the start of registration each semester and on the biology website.  You can also talk with professors about when their courses are likely to be offered.

No.  As long as you have a 2.0 or greater GPA in all BIO courses that could be applied to the major you can graduate.  (You cannot take more hrs than required and only use the high grades.)  However, to be used as prerequisites, a grade of C- or better much be earned in chemistry and core biology courses.  See the catalog for details.  Cognate courses are not used in the calculation of your BIO GPA. 

Yes.  See the Biology Academic Coordinator (Bioscience 1028F) for a course substitution form.

If you received a high enough grade in a particular class this may be an option.  Look for ads in the halls or speak with the instructor.  This process can be repeated with a change in class.

Yes.  Each year the biology department hires 20-25 student assistants who work from 4 to 8 hours per week.  Some are Work/Study students (their work is part of their financial aid package).  Tasks include everything from photocopying to washing glassware to lab set up.  See the Student Employment page for more information.

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