Is Biology A Hard Major? An Insider’s Outlook

I received an ant vacuum from my grandpa when I was 10 years old. Grandpa found my hobbies strange, but still, he appreciated that I would pick the hornworms off his tomato plants. 

The natural world, with all of its complex clarity, made me feel at peace. I was the kid who spent hours in the backyard garden observing a grasshopper, the one who felt proud just by saving a dragonfly from a spiderweb. I knew biology was my path and was intent on majoring ever since middle school. Being a biology student, so far, is still one of the best choices I’ve made. 

Nonetheless, not everyone has a clear idea of whether or not they should choose biology. One of the questions I received the most from sophomores was, Is biology a hard major? This is not a silly question at all: You are looking at a broad and diverse field, constantly morphing itself as new discoveries are being made. It’s understandable for college-bound teens not to know what they are up against. 

Thus, here is a guide on what to expect from becoming a biology major. Read on, and you will know if it’s right for you! 

First And Foremost: Understanding Biology Major

Biology Major Stereotypes
Just in case you don’t know what you are going to do in biology… – Source: Pinterest

One of the stereotypes about biology students is that we spend 20 hours a day locked in a lab, working with worms or creepy, wriggly creatures that nobody cares about… No, no, and no! The world you and I are living in is surrounded by organisms, from those that are so microscopic in size and scale that you can’t observe with naked eyes to the enormous ones that defy our comprehension. A biology student will study the science behind them. This includes their history and evolution, physical structures, functions, processes and habits, etc. 

Well, that’s just a short answer! There is so much more involved if you want to deeply understand the field. In fact, biology is broken down into 7 branches. Within those main areas are an even greater number of subfields that biologists and students can choose to focus their concentration on. In this post, JobandEdu will just go over the major divisions: 

  • Botany: This branch of biology deals with the study of plants, including their structures, properties, and biochemical processes.
  • Environmental biology: Environmental biology explores how different elements of the environment interact with each other and impact the natural world.
  • Evolutionary biology: By looking at the evolution history of biology, this branch determines how organisms will evolve in the future. 
  • Marine biology: Marine biologists examine the animals, plants, and microscopic life in the oceans. 
  • Medical biology: Medical biology refers to the study of functions, alterations, and illnesses of the human body. 
  • Molecular biology: This branch explores the structures and functions of the macromolecules (proteins, DNA, RNA, etc.)
  • Mycology: The study of fungi, their genetic and biological properties, and their use in humans. 
  • Zoology: The exploration of animals, their biological characteristics, physiology, classifications, and distribution. 

Like all majors, your freshman year will begin with introductory biology courses. They will help you establish a solid foundation in the subject and find out how comfortable you are with it. Students are also required to take additional math, chemistry, and science courses, such as calculus and biophysics. Starting from the second year, those who wish to narrow their studies to a certain area can choose concentrations or use elective courses within the general biology major to expand their knowledge in a particular field. 

The field of biology
The field of biology is much broader than you may imagine – Source: Unsplash

Also, you should expect to blend your time in classrooms with time in research laboratories. You will work both independently and collaboratively on research projects, where you conduct studies, analyze the results, and report your findings.

So, Is Biology A Hard Major? 

Is biology harder than chemistry
Biology VS chemistry, which one is harder? – Source: Unsplash

Let’s move on to the most asked question of all time: “Is biology a hard major?”

At first glance, biology does seem like a hard major to pursue. Since it belongs to the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) umbrella, along with chemistry, physics, and computer science, that’s to be expected. As mentioned by The New York Times, over the past few years, STEM majors have seen a whopping 40% of students end up switching to other programs or failing to get any degree. 

Why is that, you might ask? Well, every single STEM course, biology included, requires mathematics. Meanwhile, high schools in the U.S. rarely get most of their students proficient in advanced algebra, calculus, or statistics. Without math preparation, you will find it very difficult to get through your freshman year. Even I myself struggled a lot to get a B+ in Calc I and complete my math requirements, in case you are curious.

Following that are two years of extensive syllabi, lots of lab work, many specific concepts with scientific terms, unfamiliar vocabulary, and plenty of things to memorize for biology students. “If you think you are going to attend Professor Sprout’s Herbology class, you are dead wrong”, Quora user Sandeep Venkataram, a Ph.D. candidate in Evolutionary Biology, spoke our minds, “Most advanced courses are dry and hard to get through, requiring you to remember a lot of facts and put them together into a cohesive picture. There are patterns, trends, and logic, but whether you can figure them out or not is another story.” 

So, yes, majoring in biology can be challenging. But hey, I’m not trying to scare you off! On the bright side, it still belongs to the easier end of all science programs. With an average GPA of 3.23 and an average study time of 18.41 hours a week, biology students can rest assured that we still lead an easier life than those in physics (3.10 average GPA) or chemistry (2.78 average GPA). 

The main reason is that biology students will deal with much less math than other science fields. You will be relieved to know that regurgitation, minimal analysis, and basic math skills can take you quite far in this major. How about other STEM programs? Not so much! 

The truth about being a biology major by Sheala Monae

Career In Biology: Where Your Degree Will Take You?

Although there are more than a few bumps in the road, what’s waiting for you ahead is a rewarding career. Just like most STEM programs, a bachelor’s degree in biology can open the doors to many career paths and graduate school options – not just medical schools, as you may have thought. Is a biology degree worth it, then? Definitely! 

One of the biggest points in its favor is versatility. Depending on your preference and how far you are willing to take your degree, you can choose among a wide range of positions. Below is a look at the common career choices of biology graduates, as well as some relevant stats from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: 

Job PositionMedian Salary Education RequirementsNumber Of Jobs In The U.S. (2020)
Biological Technician$45,860Bachelor’s Degree87,600
Biomedical Engineering$91,410Bachelor’s Degree19,300
College Professor$79,640Doctoral Degree47,690
Dentist$159,200Doctoral Degree139,200
Dental Hygienist$76,220Associate Degree219,800
Epidemiologist$70,990Master’s Degree7,800
Forensic Scientist$59,150Bachelor’s Degree17,020
Forester$63,270Bachelor’s Degree9,500
Highschool Teacher$61,660Bachelor’s Degree173,226
Microbiologist$75,650Bachelor’s Degree19,430
Optometrist$115,250Doctoral Degree38,720
Pharmacist$128,090Doctoral Degree312,500
Physical Therapist$89,440Doctoral Degree225,350
Physician And Surgeons$208,000Doctoral Degree727,000
Public Health Educator$46,190Bachelor’s Degree123,800
Registered Nurse$73,300Doctoral Degree3,047,000
Veterinarian$95,460Bachelor’s Degree77,260
Wildlife Biologist$63,270Bachelor’s Degree15,920

The average income for those with a biology degree is roughly $70,000 per year, which is $10,000 more than the average income in America. But, again, the field is incredibly diverse, and your earning potential can vary greatly, depending on what you choose to pursue. 

The World Is Your Lab! 

Should you study biology
Biology is the science of life – Source: Unsplash

Now that you get the answer to “Is biology a hard major?”, take a deep breath. If you still insist on pursuing this degree, you are already halfway there. A quick Google search will give you countless tips on how to succeed as a biology student, such as pre-reading before each class, using hand-written notes, learning individual concepts before integrating them together, etc. 

For me, though, what truly matters is your own curiosity. The most successful individuals in this field are the most intense and insatiably curious. They make the world their own laboratory, which is especially useful when you want to learn about the biological characteristics of reptiles, the physics of blood flow, or the mathematics underlying intricate population models. 

After all, this broad field might prove too much for those who only feel lukewarm about the subject. However, if you are eager to explore every one of its corners, biology will reward you with fascinating discoveries and a plethora of amazing career opportunities! 

Iris Vida

Well, Iris Vida is very into reading books from different eras, cultures, and anything that has been going viral lately, etc. Her passions can't be put in a few words only. Whether it's the "Jazz Age," a Neil Gaiman notable novel, the pitter-patter melodies of Taylor Swift's music, or anything else, she always sends the best materials to her top-notch writings, engaging all readers everywhere. Moreover, like Nick Carraway, who captured global attention with his rich and glamorous look, she leaves readers with a satisfying sense of wonder and an urge to learn more with her compelling writing style.