New Biological Sciences Major Vs. Old- Which should I do?

As of Fall 2015, the College of Biological Sciences released a new Biological Sciences (BIS) major that has caused some confusion among students. I want to clarify the differences between these two majors, specifically the B.S. degrees, and provide some suggestions to students who are deciding which requirements to follow. The main confusion among students is the fact that some students have to do the new BIS major requirements, while others have the choice of choosing between the two. Remember, you have catalog rights, which means if you started attending UC Davis any time Fall 2015 or later, you need to follow the new BIS major requirements. On the other hand, if you started attending UC Davis before fall 2015, your catalog rights allow you to decide between the two different majors, which can be a bit overwhelming. Below, I will discuss those differences and hopefully help you decide which major requirements to follow. Also, once you decide on which requirements to complete, I suggest sticking to those requirements as you cannot combine the two majors and make your own!

Pre-Fall 2015- “OLD” BIS Major

First, let’s go over the original BIS major. For students who started Fall 2015 or later, ignore this segment and jump to the new BIS major requirements! Like any major in the College of Biolobis-oldgical Sciences, students must complete the 5 major prerequisites series with the addition of STA 100: BIS 2ABC, CHE 2ABC, MAT 17ABC, CHE 118 ABC/CHE 8AB, and PHY 7ABC. This major accepts either BIS 101, 105, & 104 or BIS 101, 102, 103, & 104. The biggest difference between the two majors is the final portion of the requirements. BIS pre-Fall 2015 includes field requirements and an emphasis. To complete the field requirements, students take a class in each of the following areas: Evolution, Ecology, Microbiology, Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior, and Plant Biology. Students then choose an area of emphasis, which could include Evolution, Ecology, and Biodiversity, Plant Biology, Marine Biology, Microbiology, Molecular and Cellular Biology, or Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior. Each emphasis has its own unique set of requirements, but typically requires students to complete 13-17 units. The final requirement for this major is that the depth subject matter, which includes STA 100, needs to total to 49 units. This was a quick and easy summary of the degree check list, but feel free to stop by the Biology Academic Success Center or visit if you have further questions.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • Is the emphasis shown on my transcript or diploma?
    • Unfortunately, no. The emphasis is not shown on either a student’s transcript or diploma.
  • Do I need to complete the Field Requirement that matches the area of my emphasis? For example, if I emphasize in NPB, do I still need to do the NPB Field Requirement?
    • This is a common assumption; YES, a student must complete all field requirements and their emphasis.

Fall 2015-“NEW” BIS Major

new-bisHere is a link to the Major degree check list, so you can follow along or look at the picture provided!

As mentioned before, the biggest difference between the degree patterns is the depth subject matter because this major still includes all of the prerequisites as the old BIS major, as well as STA 100, BIS 101, 102 & 103 (or 105), and BIS 104. The new BIS major removes the field requirements and the emphases, but the same idea remains. Instead of listing multiple classes in each area, the new major removes some of the classes in each topic giving a more concrete list of classes to take. The new major also removes the areas of emphasis and terms the new requirement as “restricted electives.” A student must complete 11 units from the approved list found on the BASC website or in the University’s General Catalog. Among these requirements, a student must complete a minimum of 6 hours of lab. Lab work can be completed by taking a class with a six hours lab per week (ex: EXB 106/106L) or taking 2 classes with 3 hours of lab per week (ex: NPB 101L & MIC 103L). Also, this major allows a student to have up to 3 units of approved research electives to be used toward restricted electives. This new major reduces the redundancy and clutter by narrowing the choices for field requirements, but also increases the options for electives allowing students to create their own unique schedule.

For students who are deciding which major requirements to follow, here are some additional considerations:

  1. How far along are you on the old major vs. the new requirements? Would it be a smooth transition?
  2. Can the classes you have already completed for the old major be used to satisfy requirements for the new major?
  3. Are there classes you really want to take that won’t satisfy major requirements for one major but do for the other?

Overall, both majors were made with the idea of providing students with a broad biology education, while at the same time allowing students to choose classes based on their interests. Most of the information shared today can be found on the BASC website! Please stop by the Biology Academic Success Center for further questions!

Brenda Garibay
5th year, Biological Sciences Major, minor in Communication
BASC Peer Advisor


Career Spotlight: Anatomist

Do you enjoy studying the form and structure of animal bodies?  Are you interested in performing systematic observations and dissections of muscles, tissues, and organs? Where you fascinated with the make up of the human body when you took CHA 101/EXB 106? If so, a career as an Anatomist may be a great fit!

What is an Anatomist?

According to, an Anatomist is someone who specializes in the body structure of organisms, and has played an important role in the research and discovery of organisms and their function for centuries. A career as an Anatomist can be very rewarding, because it allows you to explore what is normally hidden from view and discover how structure relates to function. There are a variety of different systems Anatomists can specialize in depending on their interests. Some examples of these include the endocrine system, lymphatic system, cardiovascular system, and skeletal system.

Anatomists also specialize in different species other than the human body depending on their field of work. Because the structures of most mammalian bodies have many similarities, Anatomists will typically draw inferences from existing knowledge to discover new purposes for the existing structure of species and their organs.

The following is a list of typical tasks an Anatomist regularly performs:

  • Examine large organs and organ systems through dissection
  • Examine smaller structures such as tissues and cells using a microscope
  • Compare structures across different species
  • Utilize knowledge on the structural form of organisms to solve medical problems

What type of education do Anatomists have?

An Anatomist will typically have a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, Chemistry, or any related field to biological, physical, or behavioral science. A masters degree in Anatomy is required to then work in a laboratory or for a private company. Most Anatomists also go on to earn a Doctoral degree to get a research or teaching position at a university or medical school.

Where do Anatomists work?

There are many different areas Anatomists can work. Most Anatomists either teach or do research in universities or medical centers where they help train scientists or various health care workers such as physicians, nurses, dentists, and pharmacists. Others may be employed by private companies, governmental agencies, or scientific publishing firms. Anatomists therefore spend most of their time in laboratories or class rooms, and must be flexible with working alone or as part of a team.


Salary depends on the education of the Anatomist, and according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics the average pay is $75,160, and there is an expected 13% increase in employment.

Additional Resources:

There are various Graduate Programs in Anatomy across the country. You can explore these options to choose a program that best fits your interests and career goals. Here is a summary of the resources used in this blog to help you gather more information on becoming an Anatomist:

Hopefully this spotlight on becoming an Anatomist has peaked your interest or helped you identify some of your career goals. Good luck!

Zoe Lim
BASC Peer Adviser
Biological Sciences Major