Options make a difference

One biology degree isn't like another. There are many ways to tailor your studies to suit your strengths and interests.

The typical first year corkettLab

Fifteen- (three full years) or 20- (four full years) credit BA and BSc degrees may be taken, however, you can switch after your first year (or even later) from one to the other. For both 15- and 20-credit BA and BSc degrees, the set of classes you take in your first year must include BIOL 1010 or 1020 and 1011 or 1021 (Principles of Biology) if you want to go on in biology. Please note, BIOL 1020 and 1021 are offered online. 

Typically, a BSc student would take one half credit or a full credit in mathematics in the first year (at least a full credit must be taken over the course of the degree). Most take one or two other science classes (for example, psychology, earth sciences, chemistry, physics). As chemistry is a prerequisite for Biology 2020, a core class, it's recommended that students take a chemistry credit in their first year.

Here are some other choices that would satisfy requirements of both BA and BSc degrees:

  • One credit in a writing class (for example, introductory classes in English, history, etc.);
  • One credit in a single language (say introductory classes in French, Spanish, etc.) or a humanities subject, like introductory classes in comparative literature, music, philosophy and theatre. Note: Certain classes can fulfill both the writing class and the language/humanities requirement.
  • One credit in a social science subject (for example, introductory classes in Canadian studies, psychology, women's studies etc.).

Other ways of doing first year:

  • Dalhousie Integrated Science (DISP): This is a challenging but rewarding program in which students take a common five-credit, intensive first-year program that integrates concepts and techniques across different scientific disciplines. DISP is an alternative way for a serious science student to complete the first year of studies.
  • The King's Foundation Year (FYP): You must be enrolled at King's rather than Dalhousie to take this program. (King's College campus is right next door to the Biology Dept.). BIOL 1000 is taken in addition to the three or four-credit FYP. Or, you can be registered at King's and take a regular five-credit program from both Dal and King's (including BIOL 1000). King's provides a small campus experience with full access to the Dalhousie campus and classes.

The core program

corkettLabAll students who major in biology must take a set of core biology classes. Most choose to do most of these classes in their second year, which leaves all options open for the third and fourth years. Core classes include half-credit classes in cell biology, diversity of organisms, ecology and genetics and molecular biology. You can also take one or more of half-credit classes in marine diversity, terrestrial diversity and microbial diversity.

The core program is designed to provide a basis for more advanced studies in biology and to ensure that all majors are exposed to the general subject areas of biology. A variety of skills - writing, oral presentation, computer literacy, library use and problem solving - are integrated into the curriculum of these core classes, along with hands-on activities in the laboratory or field.

In third and fourth years, a wide range of more specialized classes are available, and there are many choices possible from classes offered in the biology department, as well as from many other departments that offer classes in biological disciplines (like the Departments of Microbiology and Biochemistry) and in other disciplines in the life sciences such as earth sciences, oceanography, physics..

The particular program defines how many biology and other credits beyond the core classes must be taken. And there are many possibilities: a 15-credit concentration, 20-credit major and honours programs, 20-credit honours programs in marine biology and marine biology co-op programs, programs with minors (minors in business environmental studies, film studies), concentration in environmental science, and the BSc/diploma in engineering.

Combined honours degrees are also possible, for example, biology and international girldevelopment studies. It's really at this level that the benefits of being at Dalhousie are greatest because of the many possibilities available.

The honours programs (honours biology, interdisciplinary honours programs, marine biology) are well chosen options for those going on to graduate studies, and are chosen by many students who go on to medical school.

Besides requiring minimum grades in core classes and more biology credits, honours programs involve a research project within particular labs (or in the field). This hands-on and individually focussed experience brings students in contact with graduate students, allows them to get to know professors better, and often results in a student's first published scientific paper. Take a look at the research page and pages of individual professors for types of research in which honours students get involved. 


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