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Biology

Pre-Health and Pre-Graduate School

Students often ask advisors "What is the best major for getting into medical school?"

The answer? There is no "best major;" you should choose a major that is challenging enough to prepare you for medical school, but more importantly, one that you have a deep interest and passion for. There are also many factors outside of coursework—do you have volunteer or shadowing hours? Are you in a leadership position for an organization? Have you participated in some form of undergraduate research? Most students accepted into medical school can answer yes to these questions.

When looking nationwide at medical school matriculation (students accepted and then enrolled at a medical school), there are many different undergraduate degrees and fields of study. But one thing remains the same: Biology majors consistently make up nearly 55% of all medical students nationwide. There are numerous routes to getting into medical school, but for many students across the country, Biology was the degree of choice.

In 2017 and 2018, about half of matriculants were Biology majors

Medical school matriculation in the United States by major 2017, 2018 (Source AAMC PDF1, PDF2)

When expanding beyond medical school and looking at all pre-health* students at Butler University, despite Biology majors making up less than 4% of the student body, they accounted for over 1/3 of students that end up attending a pre-health school after Butler University.

35 percent of students that ended up attending a pre-health school after Butler University were Biology majors

*"Pre-health" defined as allopathic medicine (MD), osteopathic medicine (DO), denistry (DDS), and optometry (OD), and data is based on 2017 self-reported data of pre-health students at Butler University.  Additionally, Biology majors made up half of all students attending DO or OD school, and while data is not included in the figure, veterinary students are almost exclusively Biology majors.

Would you like to know where our students attended pre-professional schooling? Please visit our Alumni Spotlight and Careers page.

Why do so many pre-health students choose Biology as their undergraduate major? Yes, students have an opportunity to take courses that are directly related to their future pre-health field, but they also get a chance to expand beyond courses that have a narrow focus on just human health. Many medicines come from plants (botany), many microbes are quite beneficial for us (microbial ecology), and many diseases follow specific inheritance patterns (transmission genetics). Additionally, students develop the critical thinking skills they will need to not only navigate their post-graduate schooling, but skills they will continue to use on a daily basis throughout their careers. Many alumni have praised Butler for how well their Biology degree prepared them for the rigors of coursework in professional school and for the careers they have in their respective medical fields.

Required/Suggested Biology Courses for Pre-Health Focus

If you are interested in a pre-health path, it is strongly encouraged that you visit the Pre-Health Advising pages and attend pre-health meetings/advising. The information below is meant simply as guidance, but understand that each professional school will have its own specific requirements; it is important to know that information before applying to the school.

Medical School (MD and DO)

Prerequisite Courses

  • One year Biological Sciences with lab
    • BI210, Genetics
    • BI220, Cellular and Molecular Biology

Suggested courses as additional preparation for Medical School

  • Microbiology with lab
    • BI325, Principles of Pathogenic Microbiology
    • BI438, Microbiology (Biology majors)
  • BI257, Human Anatomy and Physiology
  • BI307, Vertebrate Biology
  • BI323, Principles of Immunology
  • BI411, Principles of Physiology
  • BI430, Animal Development
  • BI434, Transmission Genetics
  • BI460, Cell and Molecular Neurobiology

Dental School (DDS)

Prerequisite Courses

  • One year Biological Sciences with lab
    • BI210, Genetics
    • BI220, Cellular and Molecular Biology
  • Microbiology with lab
    • BI325, Principles of Pathogenic Microbiology
    • BI438, Microbiology (Biology majors)
  • BI323, Principles of Immunology

Suggested courses as additional preparation for Dental School

  • BI307, Vertebrate Biology
  • BI460, Cell and Molecular Neurobiology
  • BI411, Principles of Physiology

Physical Therapy School (DPT)

Prerequisite Courses

  • One year Biological Sciences with lab
    • BI210, Genetics
    • BI220, Cellular and Molecular Biology

Suggested courses as additional preparation for Physical Therapy School

  • BI307, Vertebrate Biology
  • BI323, Principles of Immunology
  • BI460, Cell and Molecular Neurobiology

Optometry School (OD)

Prerequisite Courses

  • One year Biological Sciences with lab
    • BI210, Genetics
    • BI220, Cellular and Molecular Biology
  • Microbiology with lab
    • BI325, Principles of Pathogenic Microbiology
    • BI438, Microbiology (Biology majors)

Suggested courses as additional preparation for Optometry School

  • BI307, Vertebrate Biology
  • BI323, Principles of Immunology
  • BI411, Principles of Physiology
  • BI460, Cell and Molecular Neurobiology

Occupational Therapy (OTD)

Prerequisite Courses

  • BI105, Introductory Cell Biology or BI220, Cellular and Molecular Biology

Veterinary School (DVM)

***Highly recommended to be Biology major

Prerequisite Courses

  • One year Biological Sciences with lab
    • BI210, Genetics
    • BI220, Cellular and Molecular Biology
  • Microbiology with lab
    • BI325, Principles of Pathogenic Microbiology
    • BI438, Microbiology (Biology majors)
  • BI301, Principles of Zoology
  • Anatomy/Physiology
    • BI307, Vertebrate Biology
    • BI411, Principles of Physiology

Suggested courses as additional preparation for Veterinary School

  • BI320, Animal Behavior
  • BI323, Principles of Immunology
  • BI460, Cell and Molecular Neurobiology
  • BI430, Animal Development

Pre-Graduate School

Why a PhD?

Intellectual Curiosity: If you have a passion for a topic in any part of biology, a PhD is the best way to explore that topic in depth. You will be able to go beyond information in textbooks and potentially answer questions that have never been answered before.

Self-motivated: If you like to find out things on your own, then a PhD is a great way to explore a topic the way you want to. PhD dissertations are conducted with the help of an adviser, but ultimately, you get to choose the topic, direction, and pathway for the project.

Opens many career doors: A PhD will allow you to work in many different areas as a recognized expert in a field. A PhD can help you with a career in business, industry research, consulting, non-profits, or the public sector. Less than half of PhD graduates pursue careers in academics.

PhD programs are usually paid for—unlike most other graduate and professional programs, most PhD programs will earn free tuition and a living stipend. Because you contribute to the university through research and teaching assistantships you will get the chance to get paid while you pursue your PhD.

Biology majors interested in post-graduate study in biology are strongly encouraged to participate in some form of undergraduate research with an advisor in the Biology Department. While not a requirement for graduate school, many admissions boards look favorably upon the design, development, and execution of a research project. Additionally, you can gain invaluable experience that will be beneficial when navigating a post-graduate degree.

Interested? Visit our page on Undergraduate Research.

While many students may have a specific field of study in mind for graduate school, Biology majors are encouraged to pursue studying a wide breadth of topics. This will not only expose you to a number of fields you may not be aware of, but it will help make you a more well-rounded and complete biologist. But as you will ultimately be developing your own schedule, the choice is yours whether or not to focus on one track or take a variety of course offerings.

Additional Courses Suggested for Post-Graduate Study

In addition to the required Biology courses and the electives you’re your choice, those interested in graduate school are strongly encouraged to complete a full year of Organic Chemistry (10 credits) and a full year of Elementary Physics (10 credits). The majority of biology majors complete Organic Chemistry in their sophomore year and Physics in their junior year although it is not mandatory to follow this schedule. Your advisor will work with you to determine the best schedule for your circumstances.

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