General Advising

How do I declare a biology major?

To declare a major in biology, you must visit the Biology Department Office (BI 315) and fill out a blue major declaration card. Instructions to complete this card are available in the office and biology front desk staff will be available to assist you. Once completed, your major declaration card is processed by the biology department and forwarded to the Registrar’s office to be included in your official record. When this happens, you will receive an email from the biology department informing you of your Phase I or Phase II status and your assigned faculty advisor.

I know I am interested in Biology, but I’m not sure what area of biology to pursue. Where can I find more information about all the biology degree programs available at Western?

The University Catalog offers information that is very useful in helping students identify, explore and choose a major at Western.  Within each program description, students will find a brief summary of the major and provide information regarding required coursework, prerequisites, career opportunities, advising contacts and how to declare or apply to the major.  Students are also encouraged to visit the Biology Department Office and explore or information wall which includes information on all of our available degree programs. Declared majors are also encouraged to meet with their faculty advisor to discuss career pathways as well as to utilize the wide variety of resources available within Academic and Career Development Services (ACDS).

Do I have to wait until I finish the requirements for Phase II before I can declare my major?

No, you can declare a biology major at any time and there are a couple of advantages in doing so as soon as possible. First, you are assigned to a faculty advisor who can assist you in developing a course schedule and answer your questions.  Second, the biology department staff members are informed of your intent to pursue a biology major and you will be added to our listserv to be included in department news and important announcements concerning class offerings, schedule changes, and registration.

How do I schedule an appointment with my faculty advisor? 

If you are a declared biology major, then you should make an appointment with your faculty advisor via email or phone. Faculty contact information and office hours are posted outside the department office and online.  If you have not yet declared, then you should visit the department office and complete a blue major declaration card.

Is it possible to complete a biology degree in four years?

Time to completion of a biology degree is largely dependent on a student’s entering math level. Students seeking to obtain a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Biology within a four year time span should have completed the following courses (or their equivalents) by the end of their sophomore year: MATH 124, BIOL 204, 205, 206; CHEM 161, 162, 163; two quarters of organic chemistry or physics; and 25 credits of non-science General University Requirements (GURs) including ENG 101. Major omissions from this list will make it difficult to complete the degree in two additional years.  Students who are not on target at the end of their second year should meet with their faculty advisor to discuss their degree plans and career goals and to work out a plan to graduate in a timely fashion.

If I am going to major in Biology, should I register for BIOL 101?

No, BIOL 101 is intended for non-majors at Western.  If you plan to major in Biology, you should start the CHEM 161, 162, 163 and BIOL 204, 205, 206 series as soon as possible.

Phase I and Phase II

I didn’t meet the GPA requirement for Phase II, what should I do?

Students who do not meet the GPA requirement of 2.9 average after completing BIOL 204, 205, 206 and CHEM 161, 162, 163 have the option to retake ONE of the six introductory courses in an effort to improve their GPA and remain eligible for Phase II. If a student repeats a course, the new grade will replace the existing grade for the course and the student’s GPA will still be calculated by averaging only six courses. If the student is still unable to meet the GPA requirement after retaking one course, the student will not be advanced to Phase II and will not be able to continue in the biology major.

I took AP/IB Chemistry in high school and it transferred as equivalent to CHEM 161 and 162. Will these courses count towards my phase I requirements?

Yes. You will get credit for completing CHEM 161 and 162 and the AP/IB credits will count for the necessary prerequisites. However, your AP/IB test score will not be factored into your phase I GPA. 

I am currently a Phase I major enrolled in BIOL 206. Is there a way I can be advanced to Phase II before registration for next quarter begins so that I can take upper level biology courses?

Phase I majors who are currently enrolled in BIOL 206 and who have earned a combined GPA above 3.0 from BIOL 204, 205 and CHEM 161, 162 may be advanced to Phase II while they are in the process of completing the final course(s) in the series if the student has a grade of B or better in BIOL 206 (and CHEM 123 (if applicable) at the midpoint of the quarter. This early advancement will happen automatically IF you are a declared biology major. Students who qualify for early advancement will be notified via email a week before registration begins. If you do not meet early advancement criteria, you will not be notified and you will be evaluated for advancement to Phase II after final grades have been posted. Students who are retaking a course to improve their GPA are NOT eligible for early advancement.

Biology Degree Programs

I’ve heard the WWU offers a degree in Biochemistry but I do not see it listed under biology. Do you offer a biochemistry major?

Western does offer a degree program for students interested in Biochemistry and this program is offered through the Chemistry Department.

Do you offer a degree program in Zoology?

Students interested in Zoology, Botany, Ecology and Organismal Biology may be interested in our EEO Degree Program.

I’m a pre-health student, which biology major is best for me to pursue?

Depending on your area of interest, many pre-health students are attracted to our Molecular and Cell Biology, Behavioral Neuroscience, or the combined Biology/Anthropology degree program.  However, all of our programs are suitable for students with a pre-health focus as all of our Bachelor of Science programs require supporting coursework in chemistry, math and physics.  Pre-health students are highly encouraged to contact the pre-healthcare advisors in the Career Center during their first couple of quarters at Western to discuss suitable options for study at WWU and how to best prepare for application to medical school.

Transfer Equivalency

I’m not sure if the biology courses I took at my community college will transfer over, where can I go to find this out?

The Transfer Equivalency Guide (TEG) available online through the WWU Admissions Office shows direct transfer equivalencies for most Washington State community colleges and universities.  Students should pay special attention to equivalencies that require a full series to be completed at the community college level before Western will accept the transfer credits as equivalent. If you experience trouble using the TEG tool, you should contact Academic Advising or Admissions for assistance. If transfer equivalency questions still exist, you may contact the Biology Department.

I have transfer credits from an out of state college and/or a college that is not listed on the Transfer Equivalency Guide and/or did not show up as directly equivalent on my TER. How do I know if the course is equivalent to something that Western offers?

If you are transferring from out of WA State, or your transfer school is not listed on the Transfer Equivalency Guide, you should contact the Biology Department to inquire if a transfer equivalency currently exists. If it does not, you will be asked to complete and submit a Biology Transfer Equivalency Request eForm.


When does my registration window open?

A few weeks before each registration period begins, the Registrar releases a Registration Schedule that shows when the registration system will be available to you. You may find your registration date and time on the schedule based upon the number of credits you have completed. Note: your current credit load should NOT be included in your total credit count, nor should you include credits from courses you have repeated.  

I am trying to register for a biology course, but the system is not allowing me to do so. What should I do?

First, you should refer to the Biology Department’s Registration Information Sheet to determine if you meet all the requirements to register for a particular course. This information sheet clearly outlines all major restrictions and prerequisites for each course that we offer.  If you still need assistance, please contact the biology department office.

I am not a biology major, but my degree program requires several biology courses. Will I be able to register for the classes I need?

While nearly all of our courses are restricted to biology majors initially, select courses are available to students in other academic programs that require some biology coursework including biochemistry, kinesiology and environmental science. If you are a student pursuing any of these programs, you should refer to the Registration Information Sheet on to determine at what point during registration select biology courses will open up to you. If you are a pre-health student or student majoring in another discipline at WWU, you should contact the instructor of the course to request an override.

How do I request an override for a biology course?

To request an override, first refer to the Biology Registration Information Sheet to determine who the override request should be sent to. Most likely, the override request will need to be sent directly to the instructor of the course.  Fill out an online Override Request Form, and send to the instructor.

I am unable to register for a course because the system says I have not met the prerequisites. However, I completed the prerequisite course last quarter. What is wrong?

All prerequisite courses must be completed with a C- or higher. If you did not earn at least a C- in the prerequisite course, then you will not be able to register. If you are a transfer student and completed the prerequisite course at another institution, check your Transfer Equivalency Report (TER) and make sure that you were awarded equivalency for the course here at Western. If there has been an error on your TER, you will need to contact the biology department for an override code and steps will need to be taken to correct the equivalency on your TER to avoid registration issues in the future.

What is my position on the waitlist?

You may view your position on a waitlist via Web4U. Instructions are available via the Registrar's website. Do not contact the Biology Department office, course instructors or faculty advisors regarding your position on the waitlist.  Students should carefully review the Biology Department’s waitlist policy available on the department website for more information on waitlist priority for specific courses.

I’m currently waitlisted for a biology course, what are the chances that a spot will open up for me?

There are too many variables to give students an accurate estimation of how likely they are to get into any biology courses that are waitlisted. Instead, students are encouraged to check their WWU email several times a day and to sign up for waitlist notifications via text message to ensure that if a spot opens up, the student does not miss his/her opportunity to register. Waitlist notifications are managed automatically by the registration system and are sent 24 hours a day, on the weekends and during holidays.  For more information about waitlisting during registration, please visit the Registrar’s registration webpage.

What is the policy on retaking upper division courses?

Any questions regarding the university retake policy should be directed to the Registrar's Office. You can view their Retake Policy FAQs here

Undergraduate Research, Jobs and Internships

I’m interested in pursuing undergraduate research opportunities here at Western. Where do I start?

If you are interested in undergraduate research opportunities, a great place to start would be to review the Undergraduate Research Opportunities information sheet to learn about the current research interests of WWU faculty in the biology department.  After you have identified one or more faculty members that are involved in research that is of interest to you, you should contact them directly to inquire about working in their research labs. There are a few different levels of undergraduate research available to students that range from simply assisting in a lab to conducting an independent research project under the supervision of the faculty member. You should discuss what level of research would be appropriate and complete the required research form (BIOL 395, 494, 495 or Independent Study – BIOL 300 or 400). This form will then need to be submitted to the department office for an override code.

Can Phase I majors participate in undergraduate research opportunities?

If you are a Phase I major, you may pursue a research opportunity with a faculty member under BIOL 395. However, this is up to the discretion of the faculty member based on the relevant coursework you have already completed. The more advanced undergraduate research courses (BIOL 494, 495) are only available to Phase II biology majors.

Where does the biology department advertise external job and internship opportunities?

All job and internships announcements that the biology department receives are shared with the WWU Career Center and advertised on the WWU online job and internship database – Viking Career Link. Biology majors and recent graduates are highly encouraged to visit the Career Center and set up an account on Viking Career Link. Occasionally, the biology department will also post opportunities on the Biology Department Facebook Page and/or on the large bulletin board outside the department office on the 3rd floor of the Biology building.


What do I need to do to apply for graduation?

It is highly recommended that students begin the process of applying for graduation at least two quarters before their intended graduation date.  As part of the application for graduation, students must submit a Degree Evaluation Checklist (also available in the Biology Department Office) that has been reviewed and signed by both their faculty advisor and the department chair. This process can take about a week, so make sure you have left yourself plenty of processing time before the deadline.  For more information about degree application, visit the Registrar’s Page.

The requirements for my degree have changed since I declared my major last year, do I have to graduate under the old requirements or can I graduate under the new requirements?

If the requirements for your degree program have changed since you were admitted to Phase II of the biology major, you may elect to graduate under the original requirements, or you may elect to graduate under the new requirements.  If you choose to graduate under the old requirements, you will need to request a Degree Evaluation Checklist from the biology department as only checklists from the current catalog are available online.