NCSU CALS Biology -Undergraduate Index

This program is moving to the College of Sciences on July 1, 2013, as part of the new Department of Biological Sciences. This page will remain available for a period of time after that date, but please note that the permanent home for the latest information on this program is at the new department’s website at

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Whether you are currently an undergraduate in the Department of Biology at North Carolina State University or are thinking of applying to NCSU to study biology in our department, this is the place to learn more about opportunities in academics, research, and student organizations, updates on what is going on in the department, advice on how best to prepare for life after NCSU, and resources with regard to careers, admissions, advising.  Use the buttons to the left to explore the NCSU Department of Biology and what we have to offer to undergraduate students.

Welcome to the Incoming Class of 2017

Congratulations and welcome to the WolfPack family!  You are joining us at an exciting time, as we work to create the new College of Sciences.  Undergraduate students in the Department of Biology, which includes majors in Biological Sciences and in Zoology, will be part of the new Department of Biological Sciences in the College of Sciences.  The only way in which this changes your curriculum requirements is that instead of taking ALS 103 your first semester, you will be taking a newly designed course in critical and creative thinking, which has a temporary number this year of COS 295A.  Other than that, there aren't any changes in course requirements for your first semester.

We look forward to seeing all of you at New Student Orientation.  In the meantime, below are some answers to questions you might have about what you need to do before then.  Please also keep an eye out for emails sent to you from -- we know you probably prefer texts, but we can't send text announcements to all of your, so be sure to keep up with your emails.

Be sure to read Alchemy of Air by Thomas Hager so we can discuss it when you start in the fall -- this is the NC State Common Reading for all incoming undergraduate students.  Having a shared experience to discuss when you start classes with us gives you a jump-start on making connections that are critically important to getting the most out of your college experience.

Placement Tests

If you have not done so already, you must take placement tests for math and for chemistry as soon as possible (the deadline was May 21).  For more information and for links to these online exams, visit the placement website.  These exams determine the course level of math and of chemistry for which you qualify. 

At the same website, you will find information about First Year Writing Placement.  Read through that information to determine if you should begin with ENG 100 instead of ENG 101.  Finally, most of you will have met the foreign language requirement.  But if you have not, or if you wish to continue studying a foreign language at NC State, you can take a language test during New Student Orientation.  Again, info is at the same website above.

Your Fall Course Schedule

The typical semester credit load (complete class schedule) is 15-17 credit hours.  Depending on your specific curriculum, you will need to complete an average of 15-16 credit hours each semester to graduate in 8 semesters (assuming no summer courses).  You must take a minimum of 12 credit hours in any given fall or spring semester to be considered a full time student.  If you drop below 12 cr, there are implications for housing and financial aid and your status at NC State.

For your first semester (and only for your first semester), you will be enrolled in most courses by Registration and Records.  The courses into which you will be enrolled are:

  • COS 295A Critical and Creative Thinking in the Biological Sciences (2 credit hours) -- (this determines your first year advisor assignment, so please don't change sections)
  • BIO 181 Introductory Biology: Ecology, Evolution, and Biodiversity (4 cr) -- includes a laboratory section
  • MA 131 Calculus for Life and Management Sciences (3 cr) -- depends on your math placement
  • CH 101 Chemistry - A Molecular Science (3 cr) -- depends on your chemistry placement
  • CH 102 General Chemistry Laboratory (1 cr)

If you were invited to join the University Honors or University Scholars program (and accepted the invitation), you will also be enrolled in a course appropriate to that program.  If you were invited, we strongly encourage you to participate.

You may also be enrolled in ENG 101 Academic Writing and Research (4 cr).  If so, you have a full schedule of 17 credit hours.  You can leave it that way or you can choose to use the "swap" feature in MyPack Portal to trade ENG 101 for a first year inquiry course (FYI -- more below) or for another course that meets General Education Program requirements (GEP -- more below).

If you already have credit for BIO 181, please email for help in selecting and enrolling in another biology course.

If you already have credit for MA 131, the next course in the sequence is MA 231.  If you need help enrolling in MA 231, contact the math department directly (Dr. John Griggs).

If you already have credit for MA 131 and MA 231, an excellent alternative is ST 311.  Or you can consider a first year inquiry course (FYI) or another course that meets General Education Program requirements (GEP).

If you already have credit for CH 101 and CH 102, you may want to move on to the next chemistry in the sequence (four semesters are required in our majors).  That would be CH 221 Organic Chemistry I (3 cr) and CH 222 Organic Chemistry I Lab (1 cr).  Please note, however, that many students find organic chemistry to be very demanding and time-consuming.  Consider your readiness for such a class, and talk with an advisor at New Student Orientation if you have concerns.  If you need help enrolling in CH 221 and CH 222, contact the chemistry department directly (Dr. Greg Neyhart).

AP and Transfer Course Credit

If you have taken an AP exam, make sure your scores were sent to NC State.  If you score high enough and if NC State has received your scores, you will see on your degree audit that you ahve been awarded credit for certain courses.  To figure out for yourself whether or not your score should earn you credit at NC State, visit the Admissions AP policy page.

To receive credit for college level courses taken somewhere other than NC State, you must have the transcript sent to the following address:

Office of Undergraduate Admissions
NC State University
CB 7103
Raleigh, NC  27695-7103

Transfer course equivalencies can be checked at the Admissions course equivalency page.  Keep this page in mind if you ever plan to take a course at another institution.

First Year Inquiry (FYI) Courses

FYI courses are small courses that work to foster critical thinking through the use of inquiry-based learning.  These are excellent options for first year students (and are only available to first year students).  Section numbers end in a "Q."  These are good options to replace ENG 101 (you will have to take ENG 101 your second semester) or to replace a course for which you already have credit.  If you find one in which you are interested and that fits your schedule, but it looks to be full, keep checking back.  Because first-year students in different colleges get to enroll at different times, seats in FYI courses and many GEP courses are released at different times throughout the summer. 

Suggested FYI courses include the following, but see the full list of available courses at the website above.

  • COM 110 015Q Public Speaking
  • ENG208 002Q Studies in Fiction
  • ENG265 003Q American Lit I
  • HI 210 003Q Modern Europe since 1815
  • HI 279 001Q Modern Middle East
  • MUS 200 001Q Understanding Music Global Perspective
  • SOC 202 003Q Prcinciples of Sociology
  • SOC 204 002Q Sociology of the Family
  • SOC 205 003Q Jobs and Work
  • SOC 206 003Q Social Deviance

General Education Program (GEP) Courses

All students at NC State must meet GEP requirements in addition to the requirements of their major.  Sometimes requirements in the major cover a GEP requirement (for example, BIO 181 and BIO 183 meet the Natural Sciences GEP requirement, MA 131 and MA 231 meet the Mathematics GEP requirement, and COS 295 meets 2 credits of the 5 credit Interdisciplinary Perspectives requirement).  Your online degree audit lists all of the requirements you need to meet for graduation, including major requirements, GEP requirements, and Free Electives.  If you have AP credit for history or literature, you that credit may be meeting a GEP course requirement (you can tell by looking at your degree audit).

If you are looking for one more course to add to your fall schedule and can't find an FYI course that fits or that interests you, you can look for a course that meets any of your GEP requirements.  GEP courses are a good way to explore disciplines outside of your major.  Some suggested courses include:

  • ANT 251 Physical Anthropology
  • ANT 252 Cultural Anthropology
  • ARS 253 Arts of NC State
  • BIO 227 Understanding Structural Diversity through Biological Illustration
  • COM 110 Public Speaking
  • COM 112 Interpersonal Communication
  • ENG 207 Studies in Poetry
  • ENG 209 Introduction to Shakespeare
  • ENG 220 Great Works of Western Lit
  • ENG 223 Contemporary World Lit I
  • ENG 224 Contemporary World Lit II
  • ENG 261 Major British Writers
  • ENG 252 Major American Writers
  • ENG 262 English Literature II
  • ENG 265 American Literature I
  • ENG 266 American Literature II
  • HA 203 History of American Art
  • HI 216 Latin America Since 1826
  • HI 233 The World in the 20th Century
  • HI 251 Early American History
  • HI 252 Modern American History
  • IDS 201 Environmental Ethics
  • IDS 220 Coastal and Ocean Frontiers
  • MUS 180 Introduction to Musical Experiences
  • MUS 200 Understanding Music
  • PS 201 Introcution to US Government
  • PS 204 Problems of American Democracy
  • PS 231 International Politics
  • PSY 200 Introduction to Psychology
  • SOC 202 Principles of Sociology
  • SOC 203 Current Social Problems
  • SOC 204 Sociology of the Famly
  • SOC 206 Social Deviance

For International Students

If you scored below 590 on paper-based TOEFL or below 243 on computer-based TOEFL, you must take an English Placement Test (EPT) administered by the ESL section of the Department of Foregin Languages.  If you have an unsatisfactory score, you may be required to enroll in specific Foreign Language English (FLE) courses.  All international students will be required to take the undergraduate requirement FLE 101 or its equivalent ENG 101.

Contact Information and Useful Websites

If you have questions before New Student Orientation, please email -- ater New Student Orientation, your advisor's name should be listed on your degree audit.

For New Students

My Pack Portal

New Student Orientation

Would you like to transfer into the Biology Department?


For Current Students

Visit the Biology Advising Blog (BioGuru) to keep up to date with opportunities available to you

Considering a career in human or animal health? Visit the HealthPAC (human) or VetPAC (animal) websites

Former Zoology student & Park Scholar Emily Gifford featured

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