Biology (BIOL)

Can I major in it? Yes, a major is offered. Learn more about the biology major. Carleton also offers a Biochemistry minor and a Neuroscience minor, as well as support for a pre/med or pre/health path.

Topics explored. Biology offers courses that emphasize both the diversity and unity of life. This emphasis is coupled with an examination of the basic processes of biology, including the mechanisms of heredity, regulation, development, and evolution. Our majors consider biology from points of reference that reflect life’s different levels of organization, from biochemical and molecular, through cellular and organismic, to population and ecosystem levels. Topics include biochemistry, molecular and cellular biology, genetics, physiology, development, immunology, neurobiology, behavior, evolution, and ecology.

How do I get started? The Introductory Biology sequence consists of two courses, Biology 125 and 126, both of which are required before any further upper-level course work in Biology. The two courses can be taken in either order. Students who received a score of 5 on the AP Biology exam or a score of 6 or 7 on the IB Biology exam are exempted from Biology 125, and only need to take Biology 126 before taking upper-level Biology courses, though many elect to take BIOL 125 anyway.

In order to take Biology 126, you will need to take either Chemistry 123 or 128 (or place into 200-level chemistry). Before registering for Chemistry 123 or 128, you must take the online Placement Exam on the Chemistry department’s website.

Biology Major Flowchart

Students enter Carleton from a wide variety of academic experiences and our introductory courses are designed to provide a level playing field for students regardless of previous science background. Our introductory biology courses are infused with our efforts to teach students equitably and this drives development of our courses.


  • engage students with active learning during every class period and spend a significant amount of time during class working through problems in small groups
  • emphasize the importance of a growth mindset, or the ability to grow and change with practice and time
  • share information with students about further opportunities for their development as scientists.

BIOL 125 and 126 are sophomore priority courses. We strongly encourage you to start with chemistry or math during your first year, as well as explore the Carleton curriculum. Your first term (and year) at Carleton is a great opportunity to explore liberal arts opportunities and to work on your language and other requirements. Do not be concerned if you cannot enroll in a chemistry or biology course the first term.

How do I get my questions answered? The Biology Student Departmental Advisors (SDAs) are advanced biology majors who are trained to answer student questions about the biology curriculum. If an SDA cannot answer your question, contact the Department Chair, Dan Hernández.