Biology 4 Year Plan – What Are the Requirements For a Medical Degree?

Students should check the admissions requirements for the medical schools to which they are planning on applying to. These requirements may vary significantly from school to school.

Biology majors should complete a full sequence of the introductory lab courses, MCDB 1AL through MCDB 1BL/EEMB 2L, as well as one semester of physics with lab (12 credits total). Many professional schools consider this to be a “full year” of laboratory work.


Depending on the career objective, some professional schools require specific upper division courses such as one semester of general chemistry with lab, organic chemistry, biochemistry or a course in parasitology. Other requirements include a year of college-level mathematics (e.g. CHEM 109, MATH 009A-MATH 009B or MATH 009C), and lower-division mathematics and science courses which meet prerequisites in cellular biology, molecular biology, ecology, physiology, genetics and evolution.

Usually, most of the 36 upper-division units required for the major are taken in biology courses. However, with advisor approval, a limited number of courses in other departments may be used to fulfill these requirements. These courses must have a strong biological relevance. The BS degree requires 16 units of related courses, while the BA degree requires only 16. Exceptions to these course requirements must be approved by an advisor.


For students who plan to pursue a medical degree, or for those who intend to enter the biomedical or pharmaceutical industries, an understanding of the chemical principles that govern biological function is important. For these students, a strong background in biology is combined with a more extensive set of chemistry courses. This includes general and organic chemistry, and biochemistry. In addition, one year of college-level physics (e.g., CHEM 005 or MCBL 121A and 123L), hematology (BIOL 157) and statistics are recommended.

Considerable latitude is allowed in selecting upper-division courses to complete the 36 units required for the major. Students should meet regularly with a faculty advisor to select these courses and to plan a program that will prepare them for postgraduate study or specific career objectives.


The biology program requires a minimum of one semester of general chemistry (with lab) and one semester of organic chemistry (12 credits total). Many students take more than this, however, because it is recommended or required for their career path or post-graduate plans.

The introductory biology courses (BIOL 005A, BIOL 05LA, and BIOL 05C) provide a broad overview of processes at the cellular, organismal, and ecological levels. This is followed by upper-division courses that focus on unifying principles within biology.

Students who plan to get a Multiple Subjects Credential and teach at the elementary level should select courses that will enable them to meet the subject-matter assessment requirement. Those who wish to pursue professional studies in allied health areas will probably need additional lower-division and/or upper-division courses, as well as a course or courses on nutrition.


A breadth of experience is important for students seeking a career in biology. Students pursuing medical or healthcare careers take internships in hospitals and clinics, laboratories, or with allied health groups. Others find employment in wildlife management, environmental planning and natural resource conservation.

Those pursuing a career in teaching may intern as laboratory assistants or teach high school science. Research internships are available at both the Boyd Deep Canyon Desert Research Center and White Mountain Research Station and are supervised by a UCR faculty member. Students who complete these internships are eligible to participate in the RISE summer research program.

Students interested in pursuing an internship should attend the department’s All About Internship Workshop or Virtual Workshop. These workshops provide information on the benefits of an internship, how to locate one using UCR Handshake and how to receive credit for an internship.

Field Experiences

Biology is one of the most popular science majors. It allows for flexible specialization and research experience while providing a solid foundation in theoretical and hands-on laboratory studies of living systems, their interactions with the environment, and their evolutionary relationships.

A student specializing in Cellular and Molecular Biology (CMDB) will explore the structure and function of the sub-units that make up cells, as well as how they interact to form larger organisms. Students who choose this field will often go on to medical school or related fields such as biochemistry, microbiology, and developmental biology.

Students interested in pursuing an Honors thesis should discuss their plans with the Biology Department adviser early in their junior year. Depending on the topic of the thesis, two 4-credit semesters of undergraduate research may be used to fulfill the three lab requirements of the major.

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