Biology program

Undergrad major Undergrad minor Teacher license Graduate degree Doctorate degree

What can you do with a biology degree?

Prepare for a career in healthcare, learn about organisms worldwide or help cure diseases. Find these opportunities and more by studying biology. At UW-La Crosse, you will find an abundance of research opportunities working alongside professors in a department recognized statewide for excellence in teaching.

The UWL Biology Department supports undergraduate and graduate programs in biological sciences. The department has access to state-of-the-art equipment and facilities for course instruction and research. Undergraduate research opportunities are available across many biological disciplines, and most undergraduates have the opportunity to perform independent research with a faculty mentor. Courses and research opportunities make use of the rich learning environment right here in our backyard — the Mississippi River and La Crosse River Marsh.

Biology degree jobs

A biology major provides graduates with a wide variety of career options and continuing education opportunities. The majority of UWL graduates continue their education with graduate or professional school. Others find careers in industry or the government sector in areas such as biomedical sciences, river studies, aquatic toxicology, fisheries biology, watershed studies, food science, seed genetics and more.

Biology careers

  • Environmental health and safety
  • Research and development
  • Sales
  • Technical support
  • Secondary education (with teacher certification)
  • Geographical information systems
  • Data management and analysis
  • Wildlife management
  • More

Further education

  • Medical doctor or nursing
  • Chiropractic
  • Dentistry
  • Optometry
  • Podiatry
  • Dietetics
  • Pharmacy
  • Physical therapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Nuclear medicine
  • Veterinary medicine

What distinguishes UWL's biology program?

Recognized teaching excellence

The UWL Biology Department was awarded the Universities of Wisconsin Board of Regents Teaching Excellence Award for the best UW System department in 2013. The department is also home to the 2021 UW Regent’s Teaching Excellence Award winner. Faculty have also earned numerous other UWL and statewide awards.

Post-graduation success

About 65% of biology graduates go on to graduate or professional schools, and 98% of those who didn't continue their education were employed within a year of graduation in areas including biomedical sciences, river studies, aquatic toxicology, fisheries biology, watershed studies, food science, seed genetics and more.

Partnerships with numerous regional research centers

UWL's Biology program has partnerships with local, state and regional research centers (Gundersen Health System, Mayo Clinic Health System, Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center), as well as several unique ecological habitats close to campus and field sites around the region. Students are able to interact with practicing scientists and medical professionals in a wide variety of fields whether through internships, job shadowing, research, or other activities. Many of these experiences result in summer jobs and part-time employment for students.

Undergraduate research opportunities in most fields of biology

Students will find an abundance of student research opportunities in areas such as cell and molecular biology, bioinformatics, genetics, developmental biology, biomedical research, biology education, organismal biology, parasitology, mycology, plant biology, aquatic and environmental sciences and toxicology.

State-of-the-art facilities

Courses and undergraduate research opportunities take advantage of state-of-the-art science facilities on campus. Research labs are in UWL's modern science labs building, the Prairie Springs Science Center. The use of high-tech research equipment prepares students for the skills required in the modern world.

Close proximity to unique research sites

With the Mississippi River and the La Crosse River Marsh within blocks of the campus, various courses and research projects extend into local ecological habitats. Others research and learning opportunities include trips to field stations in northern Wisconsin.

Beautiful natural surroundings

La Crosse is ranked the # 19 Best college town in America by The American Institute for Economic Research. Learn why we love La Crosse.

Tailor the program to meet your goals

Because UWL's program offers multiple concentrations, students can choose the pathway in biology that meets their specific goals. Each student meets individually with their faculty adviser each semester to discuss goals and develop a curriculum to meet them.

Areas of study


Biology is the study of all living things from microscopic bacteria and viruses to plants and animals. UWL's biology program is home to a wide variety of disciplines spanning from the molecular to the ecosystem level.

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Aquatic Science Concentration

UWL offers an aquatic science concentration within the biology major to prepare students for exciting and challenging careers in the study and management of aquatic resources such as wetlands, streams, lakes, rivers, springs and groundwater. 

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Biomedical Science Concentration

Biomedical science concentration coursework focuses on human and mammalian biology. An excellent choice for pre-med, pre-vet and pre-health professions students, the concentration includes a highly regarded, two-semester human anatomy and physiology series and additional chemistry classes.

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Environmental Science Concentration

Environmental Science concentration coursework includes strong core curriculum in biology, chemistry and math, followed by upper-level, environmentally relevant biology courses. Students with strong interests in the protection of natural resources and the outdoors tend to find this focus area appealing.

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Science Education

This is a teacher certification program, specifically for early adolescence-adolescence certification. All teacher education students must complete the general education, School of Education, major/minor, and university degree requirements in order to qualify for a degree. Biology requirements: 40 credits: (59-62 total credits including CHM and MTH requirements). 

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Molecular Genetics & Cell Biology Concentration

Molecular Genetics and Cellular Biology concentration coursework focuses on understanding living processes at a molecular level. Scientists are making exciting biological discoveries in these fields today whether identifying genes responsible for cancer or re-writing the genetic code of living cells. 

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Plant & Fungal Biology Concentration

Plant & Fungal Biology concentration coursework will help you learn to identify plants and fungi, study their evolution, and understand their physiology. Students can also conduct research with faculty who study plants and fungi. UWL offers one of the only plant and fungal biology degrees in the U.S.

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Graduate dual degree

The dual degree option enables a student to receive both a Bachelor of Science degree (biology major) and a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from UWL. Students typically complete the undergraduate requirements in three years, followed by 34 months in the physical therapy graduate program. Students will be selected for entrance into the graduate program through a competitive application process. Participation in the dual degree program does not guarantee admission to the graduate program.

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Sample courses

BIO 105 General Biology An introduction to biology including topics in ecology, population biology, nutrient cycling, food webs, cell structure and function, metabolism, photosynthesis, reproduction, genetics, molecular biology and evolution. This course provides a strong foundation for further science courses, and is designed for science majors, allied health majors and students with an interest in science. Lect. 3, Lab. 2. Offered Fall, Spring.

BIO 203 Organismal Biology A survey of the diverse form and function of prokaryotes, protistans, fungi, plants and animals. Basic ecology, natural history, evolution, biogeography and importance of organisms to humans will be emphasized. Lect. 3, Lab 3. Prerequisite: BIO 105 with a grade of "C" or better. If both BIO 210 and BIO 304 have been completed, BIO 203 cannot be taken for credit. Offered Fall, Spring.

BIO 306 Genetics A comprehensive study of the basic principles of heredity, including Mendelian and Molecular Genetics. Lect. 3, Lab 2. Prerequisite: BIO 105 and a second biology course applicable to the major. Offered Fall, Spring.

BIO 315 Cell Biology A comprehensive overview of cell structure and function, including the nature of biomolecules, cellular metabolism and its regulation, the dynamics of membranes and the cytoskeleton, the execution and control of the cell cycle, cell interactions, and cell signaling. Lect. 3, Lab 3. Prerequisite: BIO 105; one additional semester of biology; and a minimum of three semesters of chemistry through organic chemistry. Offered Fall, Spring.

BIO 307 Ecology A study of interactions that determine the distribution and abundance of living organisms. The basic principles of ecology are presented in order to develop an understanding of the nature of these interactions at the individual, population and community levels of biological organization. Prerequisite: BIO 203. Offered Fall, Spring.

BIO 435 Molecular Biology A study of molecular biology with an emphasis on eukaryotic systems. The course will focus on the molecular aspects controlling biological processes. The impact of recombinant DNA technology on biotechnology and medicine will also be examined. This course is taught largely at an undergraduate level. Graduate students will have additional course requirements/expectations. Prerequisite: BIO 306 and BIO 315, or MIC 416 and three semesters of college chemistry including organic chemistry; junior standing. Biochemistry strongly recommended. BIO 436 is an optional laboratory which can be taken concurrently. Offered Fall, Spring.

BIO 312 Human Anatomy and Physiology I A comprehensive study of general anatomical and physiological principles of cells, body fluid compartments, the skeletal, muscular, and nervous systems and the special senses. Required elements of the laboratory portion of the course include computer simulations, microscopy, mammal organ dissections and study of cadaver prosections. Students who have completed this course, or are currently enrolled, may not register for this course again until after freshmen registration (unless they have instructor/department consent). Lect. 3, Lab 2. Prerequisite: grade "C" or better in BIO 105 & CHM 103. Students who have completed this course, or are currently enrolled, may not register for this course again until after freshmen registration (unless they have instructor/department consent). Offered Fall, Spring, Summer.