Class of 2023 Students,

Welcome to the Biology Department at Amherst College

The information on this page is for first-year students interested in Biology, excerpted from Biology's Major page:  

Introductory Course Placement

Students interested in the insights of biology but whose area of specialization is likely to lie outside biology should consider the courses for non-majors: BIOL 104, 106, 108, 110, and 114. Each of these focuses on a particular topic within biology and is intended for students who do not plan to major in biology.

Students interested in a possible major in biology will want to take a year of chemistry (CHEM 151/155 and CHEM 161) and the two introductory Biology courses that lay the foundations for all advanced Biology courses.  BIOL181 and 191 can be taken in either order during a student's first 3-4 semesters (see sample paths for the Bio Major).  Note that BIOL 191 requires completion of CHEM 151/155 and completion or co-enrollment in CHEM 161.  Students should consult their MATH and CHEMISTRY placements to determine their options.  Note that MATH 111/(105&106) and CHEM 151/155 should be completed in the student’s first year.  Students interested in a career in medicine should consult the health professions web site for recommendations about completing pre-medical requirements.

AP Credit for Advanced Placement

Students with a Biology AP score of 5 and a very strong Biology background who want to consider placing out of either introductory Biology course must obtain permission from the Biology Department. The student should meet with a Biology Faculty member involved with the course they want to place out of, or an advanced course for which that intro course is a pre-requisite. Students placing out of BIOL-181 must substitute a course from the Organismal Core; students placing out of BIOL-191 must substitute a course from the Cellular/Molecular Core. Note that placing out will not reduce the number of courses required for the major. Students placing out of BIOL-181 or BIOL-191 are still required to take a minimum of 7 Biology courses (one intro and 6 advanced courses, including one intro lab and 3 advanced lab courses). In the exceptional case of a student having placed out of both intro courses, they must take a minimum of 4 advanced laboratory courses.

 The permission form (permission form) should be submitted to the Department ADC, Karen Racz.

Additional Science Requisites

CHEM-151/CHEM-155 and CHEM-161 are required for the Biology major and for all Biology courses that address molecular and cellular mechanisms, including the introductory Biology course BIOL-191. Therefore, students whose planned courses emphasize molecular and cellular mechanisms should take CHEM-151/CHEM-155 in the fall of their
first year and CHEM-161 in the spring of their first year. Some advanced Biology courses have additional science pre-requisites, such as “Biochemistry”, which requires Organic Chemistry (BIOL-330 requires CHEM-221; BIOL-331 requires CHEM-221 and CHEM-223), and “Biophysics” (BIOL-400) and “Neurophysiology” (BIOL-351) which require/recommend PHYS 116/123 and PHYS117/124. Check course descriptions for further details that will help you plan ahead.


Please see our Major page for additional requirements for Biology majors.